Venezuela’s Referendum

Below is Chomsky’s response to a Z Sustainer question, from the Sustainer forums, where Noam hosts a forum. The question asked is at the bottom of this blog.




Chomsky: The referendum vote was about 50-50, and the slight negative outcome was immediately accepted by Chavez, a fact that should have caused some embarrassment in the editorial offices and among correspondents who have been having regular tantrums about the dictator Chavez (while systematically suppressing facts that they know very well about the regular polling results, by Latinobarometro, which show that Venezuela is at or near the top in Latin America in popular support for the government and for democracy).  But predictably didn’t cause embarrassment — though some of the editorials were indeed embarrassing, if not comical.  The Party Line on this matter is adopted with real passion in the Free Press, reflecting the profound concerns that Latin America might escape the control of the Master.

My own feeling was that the referendum was badly handled, and it’s probably a good thing, in the long run, that it wasn’t passed.  There were too many parts bundled together so it became an all-or-nothing vote, without adequate public input and participation, and at the end was unfortunately personalized.  It remains to determine to what extent the vote was influenced by the hysterical condemnations in the media about how a Yes vote will mean that your children will be slaves of the state, etc. — charges which, as Bill Blum has pointed out, echo rather closely the CIA-backed charges against Allende (and incidentally, we might compare practices in the press in self-righteous Western democracies).

There are dangers of the kind you perceive, but how real they are, and how significant counter-forces are, is a matter that requires a close knowledge of the situation, much more than I have.  There is highly informed and credible commentary that recognizes the dangers you describe, but does not accept your conclusions.  A long recent posting by Robin Hahnel, for example.  A recent book by Greg Wilpert is highly informative on these matters, and judicious in my opinion.


Sustainer Question:

For the first time in the last 9 year, Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, has lost his first election. Venezuela’s constitutional amendments, which had a lot of positive elements to it, like for example extinguishing the central banks autonomy or reducing working hours, was filled with a lot of authoritarian proposals, like, for example, centralizing power in the presidents hands.

Apparently a large amount of Chavez supporters didn’t show up to the polls or indeed voted against the presidents constitutional amendments. Personally, I think it looked like a very dangerous power grab by Chavez.

My question is whether you think the Venezuelans were wise by opposing the constitutional amendment, and if you think the day after day the so-called ‘Bolivarian revolution’ is turning more and more like a Leninist power grab.

I would as well like to know your thoughts on the possibilities of a new, left wing leadership emerging in Venezuela other than Chavez (and not necessarily 100% supportive of him), because the way things are going, it really looks like a one man revolution, and we all know the dangers that might pose.



Leave a comment