President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has easily won his country's referendum on his administration. In an election demanded by the US-backed opposition, the populist government won with about 58% of the vote in a high turnout of registered electors. The result has been certified free and fair by both the Carter Institute and the Organization of American States. "We have not found nor have we received evidence of any instances of fraud," they said in a statement.
The opposition, as is to be expected, have rejected the results. It had been agreed by both sides before the election that each would accept the verdict of the people. The opposition agreed, of course, arrogantly assuming that they would win. Now that the people have clearly stated their preference for Chavez, the opposition reneges on its pledge to accept the facts. Henry Ramos, a spokesman for the Democratic Coordinator, the umbrella of 27 opposition political parties, announced, "We categorically reject the results." Another opposition leader went on TV to say that his supporters "must remain on a war footing." However, most analysts agree that with the sanction of the international monitoring organiztions for the Chavez win, the opposition will be isolated if they continue to reject the result.
The majority of the people in the streets were jubilant at the result. "This is the best thing that could have happened. Before, we poor people didn't count. Now we're a majority," said a street vendor quoted by the Washington Post. In the past year, Chavez has used the country's windfall from record oil prices to fund a broad network of literacy programs, subsidized food stores and medical clinics in poor neighborhoods. As the result solidified during the evening, Chavez announced that "Starting today Venezuela enters a new phase. Venezuela has changed for ever. There is no going back."
It will be interesting to see what the White House says. The Americans have been trying to bring Chavez down ever since he won the presidency. They disapproved his first victory, they funded and "organized" a failed coup attempt, and they have been behind this latest attempt to overthrow the Chavez government. American foreign policy has rarely concerned itself with democratic principles, being just as happy to overthrow democratically-elected leaders as any other -- and they sure hate Chavez. However, the clear statements of a clean election by the monitors will probably give them a little pause. But I doubt they'll wait too long to start beating up on him again.