Monday, February 20, 2012

Hugo Chavez Facing Electoral Revolt

On Feb. 12, Henrique Capriles Radonski, a 39-year-old Venezuelan state governor, won a primary election to become the opposition’s candidate against Hugo Chavez in October’s presidential election. He won 1.8 million of an astonishing 3 million votes — double the turnout predicted by most analysts.

The next day, Capriles, a devout Catholic, was greeted by a commentary on the government-run Web site of Venezuelan National Radio titled “The Enemy Is Zionism.” Capriles, it explained, is the descendant of Jews. (In fact, his grandmother was a Holocaust survivor who emigrated from Poland to Venezuela.)

“In order to understand the interests embodied” by Capriles, the commentary declared, “it’s important to know what is Zionism, the Israeli ideology that he sneakily represents. . . . It is, without doubt, an ideology of terror, of the most putrefied sentiments of humanity; its supposedly patriotic impetus is based in greed.” And so on.

“Zionism,” it concludes, “is owner of the majority of the financial institutions of the planet, controls almost 80 percent of the world economy and virtually all of the communications industry, in addition to maintaining decision-making positions within the U.S. Department of State and European powers.”

Thus began the latest — and what will surely be the ugliest — political campaign by Chavez, a ruler who has served as a friend in need to Moammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — and who now is facing his own homegrown democratic uprising. But Venezuela’s spring differs from those of Libya, Syria or Iran: Instead of pouring into the streets, Venezuelans — fed up with the chaos and violence of Chavez’s 13 years in power — are marching to the polls and trying to restore the country’s crippled and compromised institutions.

The opposition Capriles now heads has learned lessons that might benefit some of the revolutionaries of the Middle East. It tried and failed to oust Chavez with mass demonstrations and strikes; it foolishly boycotted elections it believed would be unfair; it indulged in endless internal quarrels. The result was the entrenchment of a strongman who has thoroughly wrecked what was once Latin America’s richest country and who now presides over the highest inflation and murder rates in the Western Hemisphere, shortages of basic goods and power, and a drug-trafficking industry whose kingpins include the defense minister.
Read the rest here.

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