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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Veneconomy: Venezuela Decides Today's Referendum on Chavez and Elected Dictatorship

From the Editors of Veneconomy:

This Sunday, February 15, there will be a referendum to decide on the reelection amendment, forced unconstitutionally on the Venezuelan people by the government.

With just a few hours to go, it is not clear what the outcome will be. There are a number of factors that will determine the final results:

The first, and the most important, is the participation, en masse, of the population in the referendum. The more people who vote, the better the chances are of the NO option winning.

It is worth noting that most analysts agree that there is still an unusually high number of people who are undecided, and, having examined the trends of this group, the analysts say that most of them will tend to vote NO.

The second factor, which it will only be possible to measure some months down the line, is the impact that the overwhelming asymmetry of this election campaign has had. Never before in Venezuela’s history, not even when the dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez called his referendum, has any government resorted to such blatant abuse of the power of the State in an election campaign.

All the branches of government, ministries, state governments, mayoralties, state-owned companies, and even educational establishments have been commandeered into the campaign in favor of the YES option defended by the government. The advertising deployed by these entities has been a case of savage overkill.

Government employees, contractors, beneficiaries of the missions or any government program have been pressured into actively participating in the YES campaign, under the threat of losing their jobs, having their contracts cancelled or their benefits under the missions withdrawn.

This asymmetry has been so savage that many people who have been subjected to humiliations and harassment will convert their displeasure into a vote for the NO option.

The third factor that will weigh in the balance is the issue of violence. Chávez has been employing an aggressive discourse, following Ceresole’s thesis that threats polarize and draw support for the aggressor. All the military and police forces and shock groups were given orders to repress, persecute, and attack the opposition majority that is defending its right to live in democracy. But, it looks as though, this time, these tactics were not of much help to the government; on the contrary, it would seem that they have been counterproductive. At the eleventh hour, Chávez moderated his discourse and became conciliatory. Whether the voters believe his false demeanor or not will also have an impact on the final results.

The fourth and final factor is whether people are convinced of the secrecy of the vote, or not. Despite the fact that, throughout the run-up to the referendum, the Suffrage and Political Participation Law has been violated to organize the referendum to suit Hugo Chávez, one of the things the CNE has not been able to do is to violate the secrecy of the vote. The vote is secret. The extent to which they are convinced of this will be a decisive factor for those who feel threatened by the government.

This Sunday, each voter has in his or her hands the opportunity to put a halt to Hugo Chávez’s ambition to prolong indefinitely so much illegality, arbitrariness, and abuse of power.

Veneconomy has been a leading consultant and analysis provider on financial, political and economic data in Venezuela since 1982.

Click here to read this in Spanish.

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