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Is the CIA tampering with Venezuelan elections?
August 15, 2004 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Is the CIA tampering with Venezuelan elections? A Venezuelan news organization reports that an email was sent to the world press this afternoon, claiming to be early election results indicating a defeat for outspoken Bush critic Hugo Chavez. The email in question appears to be a fraud, sent from a location in Virginia. There are also reports coming in of phony election results being broadcast on Venezuelan television, and rigged exit polls organized by the very people who supported an unsuccessful coup against Chavez in 2002 -- an organization funded by our government through the National Endowment for Democracy. Your tax dollars at work. Former President Carter reports that the elections are going well, with a huge turnout, but if Chavez wins, will there be an organized effort -- funded by U.S. tax dollars -- to discredit the election anyway?
posted by insomnia_lj (71 comments total)

 
> but if Chavez wins, will there be an organized effort -- funded by U.S. tax dollars -- to discredit the election anyway?

God I hope so. The people I know in Venezuela are scared silly of the communist nut who grabbed control of their country.

The Devil's Excrement
posted by dand at 9:46 PM on August 15, 2004


cnn says it looks like the recall will fail, and even if it doesn't, he can run again. (I'm glad Carter's there to watch, and that they have paper receipts for their voting machines.)

For Chavez to be recalled, at least 3.76 million Venezuelans must vote to remove him -- the number of votes the former paratrooper won in 2000, when he was re-elected to a six-year term.
Analysts have said the opposition faces an uphill battle with estimates showing that only 4 to 5 million of the nation's 25 million people are vehemently anti-Chavez. Opponents collected 2.4 million signatures to force the recall vote.

posted by amberglow at 9:58 PM on August 15, 2004


Well US funded coups have worked so well in the past why stop now: Iran, Guatemala, Congo, and my personal favourite, Chile (Pinochet? Good job there guys).
posted by chunking express at 10:03 PM on August 15, 2004


cnn says it looks like the recall will fail

That CNN article makes no predictions at all. It only quotes 'analysts' as saying, "the opposition faces an uphill battle."
posted by techgnollogic at 10:13 PM on August 15, 2004


Although it is hard to predict how the vote will end up, there is an article from the Spanish language BBC site -- which I have run through a machine translator, for your perusal -- asking people whether they will vote "si o no" that has attracted many comments.

By my count, the preference amongst those in Venezuela who responded to the BBC's informal poll is NO by roughly a 2-1 margin.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:53 PM on August 15, 2004


Well, if elections in this country can be rigged, why not Venezuela?

The question isn't will they do this. The question is will they get away with their dirty tricks again?
posted by geekhorde at 11:11 PM on August 15, 2004


If anything, the large turnout more or less spells class "warfare" as the lower classes who benefit mostly from Chavez are coming out in huge numbers not to recall him. Venezula is no egalitarian society (there are like every other nation with a sizable number) more poor than wealthy.

After this failed CIA-backed "coup" perhaps Chavez will become a Musharaff-type character. Once despised by the US elitists policy makers only to later be embraced when economic or anti-terror interests have their say.

Oh course, the foreign policy hawks are seeing this as a new "red threat" especially with Chavez's socialist policies and normal relations with Cuba.

I kinda see this, and other events, as key choices for the Bush policy makers. Will they continue their 80s style latin american interventions and Cuba trade restrictions or will they go all "We love China" on them and develop normal economic relations? Is anti-communism still the most important issue for American policy makers and can they prove that these policies hurt americans in any way or are a threat to America?
posted by skallas at 11:24 PM on August 15, 2004


I'm curious if anyone in power in the US and to the lesser extent the West believes that other countries have the right to choose their own economic policies and systems. Or can we expect more Chile-like situations and perhaps a proxy war or two soley to keep nations from "going red." Again.
posted by skallas at 11:28 PM on August 15, 2004


Why, I am shocked - shocked! - to find that there is gambling going on in here!
posted by mwhybark at 11:34 PM on August 15, 2004


What am I missing? Does the CIA use AOL for their internet?
posted by shoos at 11:43 PM on August 15, 2004


insom: interesting poll result, especially considering that Venezuelans who can afford computers would be more likely to be in favour of a recall.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:51 PM on August 15, 2004


Already with just minutes to spare before 3:00 p.m. international media began receiving emails from IP address 172.138.233.63 claiming to release preliminary results. In accordance with electoral regulations, VHeadline.com will not publish the information ... we do not give much credence to the information since tracing the sender IP to Virginia, USA!

172.138.233.63
Record Type: IP Address

OrgName: America Online
OrgID: AOL
Address: 22000 AOL Way
City: Dulles
StateProv: VA
PostalCode: 20166
Country: US

THESE EVILDOERS MUST BE STOPPED!
posted by swell at 11:59 PM on August 15, 2004


Venezuela's Chavez on brink of referendum defeat
The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, looked to be losing his grip on power last night as exit polls showed him to be trailing the opposition by almost a million votes.


The figures were early indications that, for the first time in the country's history, the President may have his term in office cut short by a referendum.


The mid-morning results showed that the opposition, already boasting an enormous 1,758,000 votes to Chavez's 798,000, is well on its way to reaching the target of 3.76 million votes it needs to oust the authoritarian, left-wing President. Turn-out for the referendum was high, with millions of Venezuelans queuing from the early hours at polling stations all over the oil-rich country to decide the political fate of the firebrand Mr Chavez.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:08 AM on August 16, 2004


Steve_at_Linnwood, what the article you cite doesn't tell anyone is who did the exit polling. Was it done by the same people I referenced, for instance?
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:18 AM on August 16, 2004


I suspect that the SI vote may come very close to beating the 3.76 million votes needed... it may even exceed it.

I also predict that Chavez will get more votes than the SI voters, and win anyway.
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:21 AM on August 16, 2004


Uh, this is funny. I did a Whois on AOL.com and got this


AOL.COM.IS.N0T.AS.1337.AS.GULLI.COM
AOL.COM.IS.0WNED.BY.SUB7.NET
AOL.COM.AINT.GOT.AS.MUCH.FREE.PORN.AS.SECZ.COM
AOL.COM
posted by inksyndicate at 12:27 AM on August 16, 2004


This article indicates that voting continued well past midnight, and that the polls remained open. Voting has finally wound down, though, and the National Electoral Council is expected to announce preliminary results at 4:30AM, which is about 30 minutes from now.
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:06 AM on August 16, 2004


God I hope so. The people I know in Venezuela are scared silly of the communist nut who grabbed control of their country.

First comment, and the delightful dand shows just why Americans are admired and respected throughout the world.
posted by salmacis at 1:08 AM on August 16, 2004


Greg Palast has done a lot of original coverage on Venezuela.

His account on the coup a couple of years ago and especially how it was broadcast in western media is truly a frightening read.
posted by hoskala at 1:17 AM on August 16, 2004


With 94% of the votes counted Reuters says: Chavez wins.

I guess AOL^H^H^HCIA aren't as effective as they used to be...
posted by PenDevil at 1:18 AM on August 16, 2004


I just saw the result on the tv news, they are saying Chavez had 58% of the vote. The opposition are questioning manipulation through early incorrect radio reports calling the referendum in Chavez's favour, but the official observers, including Carter, are satisfied with the process. Go Chavez!
posted by Onanist at 1:44 AM on August 16, 2004


Yeah, way to support democracy, Dand.

This referrendum won't achieve much; the opposition still mean to overthrow Chavez by any means they can, democratic or otherwise.
posted by Blue Stone at 2:03 AM on August 16, 2004


What I don't get is why the CIA are so cheap as to go with AOL as their ISP... ;-)

(I admit it... that part of my post is likely to have been either silly games from a disgruntled Chavez opponent, or pro-Chavez bunk.)

It's kind of a moot point, though, as Chavez clobbered the recall anyway. Oil prices have dropped as a result, so it's hopefully going to be a win-win scenario.

""I'm ready to bet -- in bolivares or dollars, whichever he wants -- that I will be President in the Miraflores Palace longer than he will be resident at the White House in Washington D.C." - Hugo Chavez, Feb. 29, 2004

Que cajones! Wouldn't you love to see him collect on that bet?!
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:14 AM on August 16, 2004


With 94% of the votes counted, Chavez received 4,991,483 votes, with 3,576,517 opposed to him staying in power.

With 6% of the votes outstanding, that means that the pro-recall vote should wind up with around 3,800,000 votes -- enough to have won the recall, had Chavez supporters not turned out in such huge numbers.

By the time the dust settles, approximately 5,310,000 votes will have been cast for Chavez. That equates to a 41% increase in voter turnout from the last presidential election, which is a huge success for the process of democracy, if not the cause.
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:34 AM on August 16, 2004


just asking, but if there were an election in the US, for something crazy like a 'deport all the wierd foreigners' referendeum, and the turnout was 100%, would that be a success for the process of democracy?
posted by efalk at 2:46 AM on August 16, 2004


would that be a success for the process of democracy?</i

It would, and is precisely why the US is a republic.

posted by Space Coyote at 2:51 AM on August 16, 2004


Venezuela has the 6th largest oil reserves in the world.

Can I place bets on where the next "war on terror" will be?
posted by spazzm at 3:42 AM on August 16, 2004


Is the CIA tampering with Venezuelan elections?

Well, duh.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:53 AM on August 16, 2004


I saw a big queue of voters outside the Venezualan embassy in London. I'd say a quarter of them had their faces painted with the national flag. Never seen anything like it.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:44 AM on August 16, 2004


If the CIA does the same exemplary job of tampering with Venezuelan elections that they did with determining the presence of Iraqi WMD and fingering al-Qaeda, there's nothing to worry about.
posted by alumshubby at 4:46 AM on August 16, 2004


Now we'll see what will really happen, i guess, now that Chavez is still in.
posted by amberglow at 5:32 AM on August 16, 2004


will there be an organized effort -- funded by U.S. tax dollars -- to discredit the *government* anyway?

God I hope so. The people I know in *China* are scared silly of the communist nut who grabbed control of their country.


A little perspective on those darn evil commies. Don't laugh, you're next Canada!
posted by nofundy at 6:07 AM on August 16, 2004


Go Chavez!

You can't be serious?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 7:57 AM on August 16, 2004


Go Chavez!
You can't be serious?


Sadly, it looks like this isn't a cleverly ironic thread, so I guess the pro-Chavez contingent is serious (or their continued hatred of Bush and cynicism of the US is blinding them). Nothing new though, from the sloganeers who brought you "Go Castro!", and "Che forever!".
posted by loquax at 8:31 AM on August 16, 2004


I speak from the heart when I say that we cannot allow the Soviet Union to establish a client state in Venezuela, one day's marching distance from Texas!11!!11!
posted by inksyndicate at 8:45 AM on August 16, 2004


The Ubnited States could learn a thing or two about democracy from Venezuela.

Surely you can't be serious when you intimate that the CIA should be allowed to usurp democratically elected leaders in other countries?
posted by nofundy at 8:49 AM on August 16, 2004


if there were an election in the US, for something crazy like a 'deport all the wierd foreigners' referendeum, and the turnout was 100%, would that be a success for the process of democracy?

of course. if there was 100% turnout for an election on whether or not to turn the tap water green on St. Patrick's Day, that would be a flaming mandate for democracy.

if we ever get 75% turnout in a national election, i'll throw the biggest party i can muster, and you're all invited (everyone who votes). Venezuela (not to mention Australia) is a great argument for mandatory voting laws.

go Chavez! go Castro! Che is long dead. (who else were we supposed to root for again ... ?)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:55 AM on August 16, 2004


Sadly, it looks like this isn't a cleverly ironic thread, so I guess the pro-Chavez contingent is serious (or their continued hatred of Bush and cynicism of the US is blinding them).

Not knowing much about Venezuelan politics, I'm not sure what you're objecting to. Are you saying there was something wrong with the election?

Nothing new though, from the sloganeers who brought you "Go Castro!", and "Che forever!".

USA! #1! USA! #1!

Feel better?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:06 AM on August 16, 2004


I'm saying there's something wrong with Chavez - if you don't know much about Venezuelan politics, read up on him. Being anti-US foreign policy is fine, being pro-Chavez is asinine, no matter how he maintains power, and no matter if 100% of the population votes for him. You're free to think for yourselves and determine for yourselves whom to support and whom to oppose, you don't need to take your cues from the US, the UN or even from foreign voters.

And if you really think that Chavez is doing much useful for his people, and is a champion of democracy, you are sorely mistaken. Regardless of whether or not the CIA is staging a coup.
posted by loquax at 10:20 AM on August 16, 2004


their continued hatred of Bush and cynicism of the US is blinding them

Yeah, that's the ticket!
Supporting democracy around the world = Bush hating.
I'm happy we can agree.
Not that I hate Bush, just everything he represents.

Usurpation of democracy in the US or elsewhere makes me angry = cynicism of the U.S.
I don't understand.
Please coach me in the finer points of that talking point.
posted by nofundy at 10:25 AM on August 16, 2004


And if you really think that Chavez is doing much useful for his people, and is a champion of democracy, you are sorely mistaken.

Fair enough, I feel the same way about the current US administration.

Regardless of whether or not the CIA is staging a coup.

But if it were staging a coup, that would be worse than the election of a guy you don't like, yes?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:26 AM on August 16, 2004


Chavez may not be your president of choice, loquax, but the people of Venezuela seem to have chosen him.

Maybe you could enlighten us as to what Chavez is doing that is bad? Not including the work that the Venezuelan High Court has done in procrastinating and perverting the reforms that Chavez has attempted to put through to benefit the majority of the population. His reaction to this could be constued as being power hungry, but looking at it from his perspective; when you have a concern for the wellbeing of your electorate and you are a determined person it is hard not to want those who oppose, due to being in the pocket of the rich, to get out of the way. Unellected rich people are not seen as being particularly worthy defenders of democracy in general.

Having almost complete control of the media has not enabled the US backed right wing to stage a coup or oust Chavez any other way. Their staged national strike hobbled the economy, but did not detract from Chavez' support. How can anyone who supports democracy defend these plots against the democratically elected president and the people of Venezuela?

'Chávez’s principal problem has been his commitment to democratic rules in a region accustomed to democraduras – regimes which are half-democratic, half-dictatorial, the democratic aspect guaranteeing a vote every few years while the dictatorial aspect crushes popular discontent.'

Che lives on in the subtle, slow moving revolution that is taking place across South America.
posted by asok at 10:55 AM on August 16, 2004


A little perspective on those darn evil commies. Don't laugh, you're next Canada!


There is no need to discredit our government. It does that all on its own and the people of Canada officially do not give a rats ass.

If the United States really wants to understand the hatred in the rest of the world perhaps they should look into the gap between what they say and what they actually do.

Crowing about democracy, free trade and freedom loud and strong while actively suppressing it other countries will not improve the situation. Hopping into bed with easy dictators instead of seducing ideologically incovienient democracies is practically an American tradition.
posted by srboisvert at 11:10 AM on August 16, 2004


Chavez may not be your president of choice, loquax, but the people of Venezuela seem to have chosen him.

I agree, they seem to have chosen him. That does not, in my opinion, require me personally to somehow respect him or his government, any more than it would require me to respect Tony Blair or Vladimir Putin. My issue with some of the comments in this thread is my perception that Chavez is getting de facto support because he is opposed to the US and because of the rumour (or whatever) that the CIA is/was interfering in the referendum. If I misread that sentiment, and there is a genuine outpouring of support for Chavez here, I think you're just very wrong, as opposed to wrong and foolish. Just look him up on Google, there's plenty of info, left and right leaning. He's imprisoned opponents, stifled free speech, instituted martial law, tinkered with the constitution, alienated vast parts of the country and has generally mismanaged the economy. Even Kerry says he is on the cusp of becoming a dictator. Sure, he has also promised great things for poorer Venezuelans, and claims to have carried out some of his reforms, but in general, has done very little but pay lip service to the crowds that elected him, and continues to use them to forward his own agenda. Even if you disagree with that assessment, to find enough positives around Chavez to actually cheer at his electoral victories is a little absurd. At best, he is incompetent and a forgettable populist, at worst, he's a totalitarian dictator in waiting, another Castro. Doesn't sound like much to cheer about today.
posted by loquax at 11:28 AM on August 16, 2004


insomnia_lj : "Que cajones" means "what drawers". I think you meant "que cojones". Or you could be admiring his drawers, I guess.

None of this is surprising to anybody who grew up in Chile, let me tell you that. I seriously hope we're not seeing a resurgence of the bad old days.
posted by signal at 11:44 AM on August 16, 2004


That does not, in my opinion, require me personally to somehow respect him or his government, any more than it would require me to respect Tony Blair or Vladimir Putin.

As a sovereign country, it's nobody's business but our own what we do with it. And of course, the same applies to Canadians when it comes to the American government. It's inappropriate, arrogant and disrespectful to believe that it's OK to comment in such a direct way.

This isn't a politics thing, it's respect for the duly elected representatives and the democratic process of another country, especially such a close ally as the United States. What I'm saying is that it's one thing to protest the war in Iraq, or the actions of various governments, it's quite another to attempt to directly interfere in the democratic process of another country.

This, IMHO, is just rude to the millions of people who voted for Bush in 2000 and the millions who will vote for him again in November. Who are you or I to tell them what their priorities should be, or that they should take our feelings into account? Of course *this* won't open the can of worms, but it's the principle of the matter.

I'm curious Loquax, given that you have such strong feelings about interference in the affairs of sovereign nations, why doesn't possible US involvement in (or at the very least tacit approval of) the attempted coup seem to bother you?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:49 AM on August 16, 2004


You're being a little disingenuous. Those comments I made were regarding a petition by Canadians calling for Americans to vote out Bush in November. Throughout I said that of course they had the right to do so, but the form in which they were doing it was inappropriate in my opinion. That is in contrast with say, Canadians criticizing Americans or encouraging votes for Kerry on this website, or as individuals.

By the same token, if you must know about my feelings, I feel fine condemning Chavez, or Bush, or Putin or whomever personally, myself, on websites or in conversation. I would not, however, support a CIA-led coup in Venezuela, or a CSIS-led coup in the USA. I don't think I indicated that here. If I did, I apologize. I just didn't much stock in the rumour floated in the post. I would also not sign a petition urging Venezuelans to vote against Chavez. I do think (in the vast majority of cases) it's very inappropriate to attempt (even if ham-handed) to directly *interfere* in the due process of foreign democratic countries. By all means critique or condemn though. And in this case, I think a healthy dose of both is required.

PS: I've had the words "Armitage Shanks" in my head for about a week now and I had no idea why or what they meant. Thanks for reminding me, and kudos for driving me nuts!
posted by loquax at 12:06 PM on August 16, 2004


Yeah, loquax ... one of those tinkerings with the constitution enabled the opposition to call this referendum.

The parts of Venezuela that seem to be the most "alienated" would be the former establishment. Go figure.

I think a strike instigated by the opposition was the cause of Venezuela's recent economic slump, from which it is now, slowly, recovering.

Venezuelan jails are not filled with political opponents. Death squads do not roam the Venezuelan countryside.

Clearly something must be done!
posted by Blue Stone at 12:38 PM on August 16, 2004


Just look him up on Google, there's plenty of info, left and right leaning. He's imprisoned opponents, stifled free speech, instituted martial law, tinkered with the constitution, alienated vast parts of the country and has generally mismanaged the economy.

Who were we talking about again?
posted by euphorb at 12:50 PM on August 16, 2004


So that's reason to cheer him on, Blue Stone? Death squads not roaming the streets? Jails not filled with protesters? By that criteria you should be firmly in the pro-Bush camp. After all, he's mostly only alienated the former establishment too!

The fact is that he has played fast and loose with democracy, free speech and the power of his office. It's absurd to criticize Bush, as euphorb points out, for many of the same things that Chavez has done, but to a far lesser and far more arguable degree, and yet herald Chavez for having "cojenes". I didn't say he was evil incarnate, I said he unquestionably has a spotty record which could get worse. I hope it doesn't. If you want to hitch your wagon to Hugo's cart though, be my guest. You'll excuse me if I get the impression that you have no problem with strongman populists as long as they call themselves "leftists".
posted by loquax at 12:57 PM on August 16, 2004


I do think (in the vast majority of cases) it's very inappropriate to attempt (even if ham-handed) to directly *interfere* in the due process of foreign democratic countries.

Agreed, and that's why possible US involvement in the 2002 coup seems like much more of a concern than whether some Americans support Chavez, or some Canadians petition Americans to dump Bush. They both seem rather harmless in comparison.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 1:09 PM on August 16, 2004


Forgive me if I'm missing something, but the opposition ... it owns almost all the media, and yet Chavez squashed free speech?

The opposition (the former coup supporters) have been granted a referrendum by Chavez, prior to the normal elections, and it seems they're loathe to accept anything but victory regardless of the actual result, but he's the one playing fast and loose with democracy?

I don't see any real comparison between Bush and Chavez at all. Quit blowing hot air, you're steaming up the windows.
posted by Blue Stone at 1:30 PM on August 16, 2004


You're right Blue Stone, there is no comparison. Chavez does the things that any American president wouldn't dream of doing. Like firing Judges that disagree with him, dismissing civil servants that signed petitions against him, using the institutions of the country for his personal purposes, imprisoning legitimate political opposition and shutting down or censuring the large body of opposition press from time to time. Has he done some good for the poor? Maybe, arguably. Has he been divisive for Venezuela, triggered multiple crises and has he abused his power? Certainly. Sure the opposition is not necessarily much better, but the only thing I personally took exception to is the (IMO, naive and reactionary) "Go Chavez" attitude I detected earlier in the thread, not serious debate about Chavez's policies.

All I'm saying is, it's possible to be against CIA-led coups/the Bush administration AND be against Chavez at the same time.
posted by loquax at 1:51 PM on August 16, 2004


Chavez, with all his tub-thumping and referring to Simon Bolivar and Pablo Neruda is definitely not the kind of leader we in el Norte are used to so it makes sense to be a little suspicious. But if you look at the alternative - the right-wing elite - he doesn't appear so bad; Chavez has shown more respect for Venezuelan democracy then they have. Just witness their failed coup a few years back (which the White House was suspiciously quick to recognise) Also, the economic collapse had an awful lot more to do with the politically-motivated general strike than any kind of Chavista incompetence.
posted by Celery at 1:52 PM on August 16, 2004


Chavez has shown more respect for Venezuelan democracy then they have.

Flashback to 1992.

Loquax is on target. Listen to the rhetoric that Chavez employs, and look at his record. He's no prize. The opposition in Venezuela is not monolithic- a large part of their problem is that they can't agree on anything other than rallying against Chavez. They are not all Pinochet wannabes.
posted by ambrosia at 2:07 PM on August 16, 2004


Don't get me, wrong, I don't like Chavez and his populism, and ideally there would be a rational government-in-waiting. But I think the coup showed that the opposition - more likely an influential faction of it - can't be trusted at the helm of a democracy. I don't think we'll ever see anyone as horrible as Pinochet in Latin America again (the stakes aren't high enough anymore for the Americans to countenance it) but I still think that letting the old governments back in would be a retrograde step.
Like so many political choices (there's an obvious one i can think of anyway...) it's between crap and crappier.
posted by Celery at 2:15 PM on August 16, 2004


"Que cajones" means "what drawers". I think you meant "que cojones". Or you could be admiring his drawers, I guess.

Nope, no mistake. I like the drawers. They're the ones in his cabinet of state...
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:19 PM on August 16, 2004


So has anyone got any more info on the user of that IP address?
posted by shoos at 2:22 PM on August 16, 2004


Can we call it a moot point now?
posted by shoos at 2:38 PM on August 16, 2004


When so many millions are living in abject poverty in Venezuela, it makes it very hard for me to dislike a populist candidate who wants to do something about it.

Chavez isn't Castro, however... when was the last time Castro had a recall election, much less a presidential one? The people over at the Carter Center have been praising the Chavez government for their cooperation with the election process... and why has Chavez cooperated to such a degree? Perhaps it is because he had good reason to believe he'd win a popular election.

Cuba and Castro should be criticized more for the means they use to enact state policy, but as for the policies themselves, by and large, they have improved the lives of Cubans. The CIA world factbook basically admits as much. Despite the U.S. blockade, Cuba has less poverty and better education for its people than many other nearby nations.

Average life expectancy: 77.04 years
HIV/AIDS rate: less than 1%
Population below poverty line: NA%
Literacy: 97%

Compare this to the Dominican Republic:
Average life expectancy: 67.63 years
HIV/AIDS rate: 2.5%
Population below poverty line: 25%
Literacy: 84.7%

Sure, Castro is a dictator, but why can't we objectively look at his policies and agree that some of them have been good for the people of Cuba? If Chavez wants the positive benefit of those policies, while still maintaining a free market democracy, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:53 PM on August 16, 2004


THE US today declined to join international monitors in backing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's apparent victory, and called for a prompt, thorough and transparent probe into opposition claims of massive fraud.

"We encourage the National Electoral Council to allow a transparent audit to address any concerns and assure Venezuelan citizens that the referendum was free and fair." - Tom Casey, State Department spokesman.
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:16 PM on August 16, 2004


BTW, Greg Palast just wrote another great article on why Chavez won.
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:22 PM on August 16, 2004


THE US today declined to join international monitors in backing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's apparent victory

Oh for Christ's sake.

Though the opposition swiftly rejected the results, saying they were fraudulent, Carter and the head of the Organization of American States, who led observer teams, said the voting appeared clean.

Carter said the partial results announced Monday morning by election officials showing a wide margin of victory for Chavez ``coincided'' with his own team's findings.

``Now it's the responsibility of all Venezuelans to accept the results and work together for the future,'' he said.


I can't imagine what a wonderful world it would be if the Bush administration held itself and its cronies to the same standards as people it doesn't like.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:51 PM on August 16, 2004


The Bush administration whining to Venezuela about voter fraud....too much.

The head of the Organisation of American States, Cesar Gaviria, also said his monitors had not found "any element of fraud".

The endorsement of the international observers will make it difficult for the opposition to take their grievances much further, says the BBC's James Menendez in Caracas.

The rest of the international community is likely to take its cue from them and recognise President Chavez's success, our correspondent says.

posted by fold_and_mutilate at 4:18 PM on August 16, 2004


to all you Go Chavez! types: i urge you to talk to people who are actually from venezuela and see what they have to say. i'm not saying that all of them hate chavez, the early result indicates otherwise, but i think you'll get a very different picture from the one the international left paints. i know a number of very socially oriented venezuelans who vehemently oppose chavez because they think his policies, rather than helping the poor, are making them far worse off. check out un sueño para venezuela for some revealing statistics. (sorry, i don't have an english translation, but the graphs are fairly self explanatory) the international left loves to hold chavez up as a champion for the poor, but even if the early results are true, the fact that 42% of a country who's middle and upper class are far less than 42% of the population, means that the story is not that simple.
posted by christy at 4:39 PM on August 16, 2004


This alone is enough to love him: The company's huge surplus oil revenues were redirected into imaginative new social programmes. Innumerable projects, or "missions", were established throughout the country, recalling the atmosphere of the early years of the Cuban revolution. They combat illiteracy, provide further education for school dropouts, promote employment, supply cheap food, and extend a free medical service in the poor areas of the cities and the countryside, with the help of 10,000 Cuban doctors. Redundant oil company buildings have been commandeered to serve as the headquarters of a new university for the poor, and oil money has been diverted to set up Vive, an innovative cultural television channel that is already breaking the traditional US mould of the Latin American media.

The opposition dismiss the new projects as "populist", a term customarily used with pejorative intent by social scientists in Latin America. Yet faced with the tragedy of extreme poverty and neglect in a country with oil revenues to rival those of Saudi Arabia, it is difficult to see why a democratically elected government should not embark on crash programmes to help the most disadvantaged.
--from the Guardian
posted by amberglow at 4:58 PM on August 16, 2004


the international left loves to hold chavez up as a champion for the poor, but even if the early results are true, the fact that 42% of a country who's middle and upper class are far less than 42% of the population, means that the story is not that simple.

I'm having a very difficult time understanding the point here. You're saying that some (an unspecified smaller percentage of poor folk) are joining an unspecified percentage of rich and middle class voters to oppose Chavez ... and they together equal 42% of the votiing public, yes? And I'm supposed to give a shit ... why? Because a lesser percentage of the voters aren't given more weight than the higher percentage? Is this what you're claiming? I don't recall anybody making the claim that Chavez is a champion of each individual poor Venezualan. Can you perhaps elaborate on how he could or should be?

As I've said, I'm very confused by your attempt at a point, christy.
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:01 PM on August 16, 2004


So has anyone got any more info on the user of that IP address?

1. Make a list of all the idiots in the world
2. Make a list of people with AOL disks
3. Find intersection of lists 1 & 2

Your threat to democracy's somewhere on list 3. Good luck.

The recording purported to announce first results of the referendum as being a resounding defeat for President Chavez Frias ... it was, in fact, a somewhat amateurish attempt to fake the voice of CNE president Francisco Carrrasquero.

And where was Senor Wences when this was happening?
posted by swell at 8:31 PM on August 16, 2004


To Loquax and Steve_at_Linnwood: my "Go Chavez" comment was meant more in a pro-democracy vein - I had just seen on the news one young woman who had waited 15 hours to vote and was damn proud to have done so. I thought it was inspiring. And, I guess my opinion was tinged with the knowledge that the opposition is partly made up of powerful business interests and controls the media, yet the people have defied that kind of influence.

Regarding Venezuela in general and Chavez's impact, I'm only going on what I've learnt from reading newspapers and seen on the tv news - the only left view I can recall reading was Greg Palast's coverage of the attempted coup in 2002, which I'll admit shocked me and coloured my view of Chavez and those opposing him. But, as I read in this morning's paper, 80% of Venezuela's population live in poverty in a country which is the fifth-largest oil producer! Don't you think something must be wrong with that picture? I don't see how Chavez is worsening such a terrible situation, especially when I read seemingly level-headed comments like this one, from a poor Venezuelan voter, "There are good things and bad things about the Government, but with another president things would be worse," he said. "I have to thank this man because he is the first one who has used our oil for the poor." Please, by all means, enlighten me - I'm completely open to changing my opinion if you have strong evidence. Do you?
posted by Onanist at 9:33 PM on August 16, 2004


Learning that Chavez is pissing off the American oil barons and neo-conservatives, and spending huge amounts of money on schemes for the poor, just makes him all the more appealing. You wingnuts here are obviously completely unable to understand the concept of democracy. They are not going to keep voting until they vote in a man that American oil interests deem to be acceptable.

The lies and probaganda that have been spread in the American media are astonishing. Whatever your opinion of Chavez, you must accept that the majority has voted, and he is the legitimate presiedent.
posted by salmacis at 12:22 AM on August 17, 2004


I'm having a very difficult time understanding the point here. You're saying that some (an unspecified smaller percentage of poor folk) are joining an unspecified percentage of rich and middle class voters to oppose Chavez ... and they together equal 42% of the voting public, yes? And I'm supposed to give a shit ... why?
my point was simply that the situation in venezuela is not one of the rich and middle class voting against the poor. there are a number of reasons to think that what chavez is doing is hurting the poor, rather than helping them. we do know that about 80% of venezuela lives in poverty, which means that something like 25-30% of the poor population also oppose chavez. so it's not just the rich sitting in their towers griping about how their money being taken away isn't helping. if you already know this, then don't give a shit, but many people i meet internationally have the perception that venezuela is embroiled in this huge class warfare, and that simply isn't the case. (incidentally, there are many rich and middle class people who support chavez too)

"There are good things and bad things about the Government, but with another president things would be worse," he said. "I have to thank this man because he is the first one who has used our oil for the poor."
The company's huge surplus oil revenues were redirected into imaginative new social programmes.

i'm all for redirecting oil money into social programmes, but these quotes are not the whole truth. some key bits from here:
-----------------------
Critics of Chavez believe that he is autocratic and tyrannical. After his 1998 election Chavez helped rewrite the constitution and extended the length of his presidency. He also created a law that gave him supra-congressional authority – the ability to pass a law without congressional approval in certain circumstances.

Using the power of the presidency, Chavez gave many jobs in the oil industry to his friends, regardless of their experience. He has also threatened to close down the privately owned press when reporters wrote stories critical of his actions and policies.

Chavez has attempted to maintain oil production by firing striking workers and replacing them with foreign oil crews, but the conflict has taken a toll on almost every aspect of Venezuelan society.
---------------------------
that last quote is of particular importance. Chavez fired almost the entire management of the oil industry, and the disaster that followed led him to have to hire huge numbers of foreign workers to manage the plants. i don't see how it helps anyone in your country to fire all the local workers and hire people from abroad to run your biggest industry. there is no argument that the venezuelan economy has going down fast over the last 6 years, and less money in the country means less money for social programmes, and less help for the poor.
posted by christy at 12:18 PM on August 18, 2004


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