International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

August 20, 2004

August 20, 2004





**  Venezuelan media accuse the other side of promoting "violence" rather than reconciliation.

**  Anti-Chávez papers cry "gross fraud"; pro-Chávez writers depict opposition as sore losers.

**  Latin papers view Venezuela "even more divided" and Chávez "paradoxically" strengthened.

**  An "authoritarian" populist was "democratically legitimated"; there was no viable alternative.




The government 'would stop at nothing'--  Unwilling to accept the recall outcome, independent Venezuelan media alleged "electoral fraud" has kept President Chávez in power, accusing the CNE of "satrapy" and "shady maneuverings."  While some faulted opposition leaders for "slipping up" and the OAS for "rushing to endorse the results," most took out their wrath on Chávez for making a "mockery" of the Venezuelan people.  Conservative El Universal lamented that instead of a "peaceful solution," August 15 turned into an "event of punishment, of penalizing the people" and warned a "pro-Communist dictatorship will grow more violent" as a result.  Liberal El Nacional likewise predicted "more violence and more repression" but advised that "sooner or later the hidden vices" of the recall will be exposed.


The 'old parties' have 'no sense of decency'--  Pro-Chávez writers derided the opposition as "old politics" and the "implacable enemies of the Bolivarian Revolution" who, unlike Chávez, "don't want peace or reconciliation" and require "Washington's permission" to make a decision.  Despite the "historic victory" and Chávez's "home run," intoned Diario VEA, "new battles await us," but "let's keep on guard because the violent people...will take advantage of any...weakness in the revolutionary camp."  In a similar vein, weekly Las Verdades de Miguel asserted that because the "demons are still out there" and have the support of those who have "declared an oil war," Venezuela deserves "a ruler that lives up to the challenge," such as Chavez.


A society divided into 'antagonistic halves'--  Latin American media urged both the opposition to accept "the reality" of the popular verdict and Chávez to "resolve the split he deepened" and focus on making a "serious effort" toward national conciliation.  Capturing the common unease, the liberal Buenos Aires Herald was not sure if the plebiscite was a "triumph of democracy or a prelude to an elected dictatorship."  El Salvador's moderate Prensa Gráfica deemed the country "even more divided" and the "level of tension, if possible, even greater."  A "democratic rebirth and pacification will depend on both sides' behavior," argued center-left Jornal do Brasil, but it was up to a "now strengthened Chávez to break his histrionic, aggressive outbreaks" and deliver on what more than half of Venezuelans "continue to believe in."


'No winner' in Venezuela--  Global outlets were dismayed that Venezuela "reinforced a populist caudillo," missing an opportunity to move away from "old style Latin American autocracy," and were skeptical that a "self-styled leader of a revolution for the poor" could govern on behalf of all the people.  As Spain's independent El Mundo observed, "Chávez won the referendum...but one cannot say Venezuela won in the plebiscite."  Though his "mix of nationalism and authoritarianism proved a false remedy," the opposition was, in the words of Italy's left-leaning La Repubblica "just as despotic and incompetent."


Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888,


EDITOR:  Irene Marr


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 128 reports from 26 countries, August 17-20, 2004.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




VENEZUELA:  "The Opposition Has No Sense Of Decency"


Pseudonym Marciano wrote in pro-government daily tabloid Diario VEA (08/19): "The political opposition disappoints Venezuelans, especially those who voted in support of them.  Opposition leaders told the world and the country that if the observers, that is, the OAS and the Carter Center endorsed the results, it would accept them.  Now, they do the opposite.  But, maybe now, when the State Department recognizes the results, they will do the same, because the voice of their master was heard."


"Protecting Chávez's Life"


Pro-Government daily tabloid Diario VEA (8/19) editorialized: "Chávez's leadership was the decisive factor in August 15 electoral victory.  That relevant role that Chavez plays is the consequence of this close and substantial identification with the people's needs, clamor and hope.  That's why, one of the major tasks that should be undertaken after August 15 is the protection of Chávez's life as a substantial value of the revolutionary process.  It is an obligation to prevent the enemies from executing their plan to assassinate President Chávez as 'the only solution to the Venezuelan crisis.'  The agencies in charge of the security of the President have a big responsibility on their shoulders.  President Chávez himself should try not to put his life at risk.  This is not personality cult, it is the full understanding of the unquestionable role personalities play in history."


"Chávez's Home Run"


Hugo Moyer Agostini judged in pro-Government daily tabloid Diario VEA (8/19): "The Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela has been strengthened once again.  For the eighth time, President Chavez has received the unanimous electoral support of the people.  Unbeaten Chavez's leadership has been ratified, and as he promised it, he batted a home run that passed by La Havana and got to the gardens of the White House, to announce our indisputable and landslide victory."


"Recall Referendum: External Consequences"


Foreign Affairs Expert Adolfo P. Salgueiro wrote in leading conservative daily El Universal (8/19): "Even though the opposition succeeds in proving in political terms that a fraud was indeed committed, it would be an uphill task to change already advanced international opinion unless a Fujimori-style fraud is discovered.  If such a gigantic and gross fraud were found, international observers and the CNE would have to retract and the OAS itself would have to intervene.  It is worth adding that Venezuelan Government managed to sell the idea overseas and especially in the U.S. that the stability of the oil supply would be guaranteed with its victory.  That's why they and others can now feel relieved.  Those who must be celebrating are the destabilizing Castro/communist movements in the hemisphere.  With Chavez's victory, they want to ensure his financial support to further the hemispherical project thy insist on."


"Alternative To Despair"


Axel Capriles M. wrote in leading conservative daily El Universal (8/19): "People don't stop looking for an explanation to the inexplicable.  Were we sold for oil?  Was Jimmy Carter, Gustavo Cisneros and Hugo Chavez' meeting, some weeks ago, the diabolic pact for the Carter Center not to demand a cross-check between the voting machines and the paper ballots right after the closure of the polling station and to endorse the false results of the referendum?  Why did the opposition leaders accept the voting machines as they were and that Government partisans control them without auditing the software or the ballot papers?  Can Venezuelan popular sectors have gotten to such level of misery that accepted to be bought off?  Whatever the reason, a fraud consummated, the only thing left for Venezuela's civil society is depression, a total discouragement as a result of frustration and hopelessness."




Diego Bautista Urbaneja commented in leading conservative daily El Universal (8/19): "Venezuela is split over certainty and the conviction of the existence of an electoral fraud.  Only the count of the ballot papers deposited in the boxes could convince most of the country of the validity of the results announced by the CNE.  If this is not done, the country will live with the conviction that it was the object of a monumental fraud.  This has major consequences.  First and foremost is the illegitimacy of the government.  To the eyes of many Venezuelans, this would be an illegitimate government."


"The OAS and Its Historic Responsibility"


Foreign Affair Expert María Teresa Romero commented in leading conservative daily El Universal (8/19): "It is true that the government of the hemisphere are interested n the reliable oil supply and in a social and political stability, though relative, in Venezuela.  Unfortunately, it is also true that the governments of the world respond first to their national interests rather than to their democratic interests and responsibilities.  This explains the limitations on the OAS actions despite this organization's significant theoretical and legal progress, hallowed in the Inter American Democratic Charter.  The OAS had to recognize Fujimori's government, despite all the evidence of an electoral fraud.  It is also true that the OAS, which always encouraged Venezuela's opposition to take the recall referendum path and guaranteed an attentive and responsible observation, rushed into endorsing the results announced by the CNE.  It should have waited.  This demonstrates that the governments the OAS represents still do not understand at all the nature of Chavez's government and the phenomenon of an authoritarianism with a democratic façade that he embodies."


"The Temptation Of The Exile"

Journalist Milagros Socorro wrote in leading liberal daily El Nacional (8/19): "There are many antecedent events that enable us to trace the fraudulent transit of the Agust 15 results...There's no doubt that we have a Government that fiercely holds on to power and would stop at nothing to keep it.  That's for sure.  The CNE blatantly prevented the opposition from having access to the room where all the votes were totaled.  Carrasquero's announcement at dawn can only reaffirm the thesis of the fraud, not only because he did it just an hour after the last polling station was closed but also because whatever Carrasquero says, whose long record of traps and lack of scruples, is tinged with suspicions....  After the defeat of the opposition and the wrath resulting from the possible existence of a fraud, many Venezuelans may give way to the of an inner exile, an asylum that can be expressed in two ways: 1) not to think, not to try to penetrate the reality and accept that interpretation that gives calm...2) to decide not to vote any more and hell the coming regional elections." 

"Cynicisms And Truths"

Leading liberal daily El Nacional (8/19) editorialized: "The Venezuelan Government should logically be the first party interested in having the CNE open its doors to all the sectors wanting to examine the reports issued by the polling stations.  There should not be any obstacle for the opposition to inspect the voting machines used...The proposal of cross-checking the results of the voting machines against the paper ballots has discomforted the three pro-Government members of the CNE, who immediately felt offended by this petition.  The credibility of this institution is at stake, and nothing can be cleared up if these authorities insist on blocking these inspections.  The Carter Center cannot propose any audit because it is simply an international observer.  Any decision must emerge from a consensus between the opposition and the CNE and its experts.  That is the right thing to do."

"Irresponsible Accusations"

Journalist and pro-Government political leader Mary Pili Hernandez commented in leading liberal daily El Nacional (8/19): "The hypothesis of a fraud that these pseudo leaders of the opposition have raised are so absurd that it is amazing that the media had given them so much coverage. After the endorsement of the CNE, the consortium Smartmatic (the firm that sold the voting machines), Cantv (telecommunications company), the OAS, the Carter Center, and the UNDP, and another 150 international observers from different countries, the opposition spokespeople became an object of derision when they came up with the story that through a Russian satellite, the brilliant experts of the Government were able to break all the security codes established by the electoral body and the contracted companies, to get into the machines, change the software and program caps on the number of 'Yes' votes."

"It's Not A Mandate"


Leading conservative  El Universal (8/18) editorialized:  "The alleged electoral defeat entitles the Venezuelan society to hold the opposition leaders accountable for having led the people to this electoral disaster.  With or without a fraud, it would be convenient if those who took the people to the elections under these disadvantageous conditions were to give way to other leaders.  For the regime, which unscrupulously took advantage of the State resources for an unseen electoral campaign with approval of the international community, goes a reflection:  it is not a mandate to crush the other half of the country, to continue to politicize the public institutions despising them; to increase the levels of poverty and populism; to continue to allow a rampant corruption; so that Venezuelans kill others for political reasons with impunity or assail media headquarters; not for the imposition of arbitrary laws, because if this is so, the elections would be useless, only to do juicy businesses.  It is a mandate to continue to fight for peace, freedom and inclusion, against hatred, for a just society that demands more from the public and private administration.  In the is not a mandate for everything to stay the same."




Retired general Guaicaipuro Lameda wrote in leading daily conservative El Universal (8/18):  "Unfortunately the work done by the CNE has not created an environment of trust, because during the planning process, so many obstacles were imposed.  If we add them with the images we watched on TV regarding the environment in which the voting process took place and the results announced by CNE chair Carrasquero, the version of the Democratic Coordinator about the existence of a fraud are credible....  We have now ahead of us the hard task of clearing up this doubt that has come up, and let's hope that the leaders of both sides are sensible enough to avoid an unnecessary confrontation that may result from this."


"Fidel-Style Elections"


Journalist Elides Rojas commented in leading daily conservative El Universal (8/18):  "The expected August 15, a key date to reach a peaceful solution, turned into an event of punishment, of penalizing the people.  Punishment for their hopes and physical penalization....  For two years, the opposition leader channeled the social anger towards the electoral solution, including the most radical ones....  The regime had no choice but to accept the elections....  Losing was not an option for the Government....  Repeating what happened in Nicaragua to Ortega was a silly thing to do....  But precisely the anguish of being close to August 15 and trusting in the evident superiority of people in the street demonstrations, the opposition yields to every institutional barricade, to every technical obstacle the combatants turned arbiters. The opposition always thought that the CNE would never mock the majority.  But they did....  The revolution starts to hold real revolutionary elections:  Cuban-style elections."


"Venezuela:  Freedom And Democracy"


Bartolomé Sancho Morey wrote in pro-government daily tabloid Diario VEA (8/18): "Any citizen of the world, especially from the United States, informed through the major media outlets, press, radio and TV, etc., would get to the false conclusion that there is no freedom or democracy in Venezuela and that journalists that dare criticize Chávez's 'leftist, anti-democratic, dictatorial and murderous government' are persecuted and incarcerated.  What cynicism!  No ruler would admit, let alone Aznar and Bush, the ones that criticize Chávez the most, to having an opposition in their respective countries that in addition to controlling more than 95% of the media, supported violence and coup-plotting.  Without a doubt, the peaceful, democratic, anti-neoliberal, humanistic and just, Bolivarian Revolution headed by Hugo Chávez, poses a serious and real threat to the fascist reactionary forces.  In the short and medium-term, other peoples of Latin America will surely follow the example set by this revolution.  This is, and none other, the reason why the de facto powers and the Venezuelan and American far right urgently try, by all the violent and coup-plotting means, to overthrow Chávez's constitutional government."


"They Are More Dangerous Now"


Pro-government daily tabloid Diario VEA (8/18) editorialized:  "The historic victory on August 15 should not blind us to the nature of the current 'opposition' to President Chávez.  They are more dangerous now than they were before August 15th.  They have lost every hope to remove Chávez from power in an electoral and peaceful way.  Now they will resort to terror and assassination attempts.  Let's keep the people and the Armed Force alert to their actions.  Let's further the policy of a broad-base government and of alliances, let's banish the sectarian and excluding manifestations, but let's keep on guard, because the violent people are around and will take advantage of any naiveté and weakness on the revolutionary camp."


"They Will Not Come Back"


Alberto Garrido wrote in leading conservative  El Universal (8/17):  "The CNE decision announcing Chávez's victory in the recall referendum is an institutional way out.  But it doesn't represent a political solution to the deep division Venezuelans are living.  Some members of the opposition Democratic Coordinator--many of them--believed, and so transmitted to their supporters, that the recall referendum was abut a confrontation within the rules of the representative democracy.  It was never like that.  The confrontation between Chávez and the opposition was between two philosophies of life, two political models, two country projects, two distinct ways of standing in the hemisphere and in the world....  [Chávez’s revolutionary] process will continue its course, challenging the White House until the oil prices go down and the progress of the continental revolution transforms itself into a real threat to the giant of the North and the Southern Command takes charge of the political aspects that until now have been the dominion of the State Department.  The hope that the referendum would be a 'constitutional, peaceful, democratic and electoral' method of getting Chávez out of power has been kept under lock and key in the personal trunk of President Bush, who has even now been unable to comprehend the fact that oil [supply] can also asphyxiate a government.  The revolution has begun a new stage; so have the opposition-internal and external- activities.  Carter and Gaviria can return peacefully to their houses.  For now, they will not return."


"Serious Doubts"


Leading liberal El Nacional commented (8/17):  "After a nervous CNE chairman made the hasty announcement of the results of the recall referendum, between midnight and daybreak of August 16, the country understood that once again the free expression of the popular will had suffered a new setback.  Both Jimmy Carter and the OAS secretary general, Cesar Gaviria, backed 'very quickly' the results released by the CNE.  They wouldn't care much that the two democratic CNE authorities did not agree with the results. Neither did they take into account the fact that the Democratic Coordinator had rejected the preliminary results.  More violence, more repression and more intolerance: that is what the shady maneuverings of the pro-Government CNE authorities will bring to the country with their biased actions.  Sooner or later the hidden vices of this recall referendum will be made public.  A recall referendum that could not achieve its fundamental mission: to bring peace and reconciliation in Venezuela."




VenEconomy expresses its view in English-language The Daily Journal (8/17): "Has the opposition suffered a resounding defeat or are we experiencing the biggest electoral fraud since November 1952...?  The only thing to do is to be patient.  We have to wait until all the information and the evidence are available.  Even if it turns out to be a barefaced robbery of votes, it is necessary to have the skill and intelligence to deal with the problem without falling into the government's trap.  Despite being allegedly prepared for a possible fraud, the opposition slipped up and twice over.  Now, not only does it have to prove that it won the referendum, but it has to do so without violence."


"The Hour Of Repression Has Come"


Jose Armando Campos wrote in leading economic newspaper Reporte (8/17):  "Everything turned out well for Chávez....  His strategy worked almost perfectly....  The electoral fraud was schemed and they only needed the main arbiter Francisco Carrasquero, between midnight and daybreak, to shout the final out....  With the endorsement of the preliminary results by the Carter Center and the OAS, the official repression and the definite assault on the media are being decreed....  Chávez said it this week in a ministerial council, 'If I win the recall referendum on Sunday, I will start the final battle against the media.'  But his threats did not stop there, he swore that he would finish with the Democratic Coordinator and would take some governors to prison....  We already said it, hard days and much violence are ahead of us."


"The Old Politics And The Results Of The Recall Referendum"


Pro-Government daily Diario Vea editorialized (8/17):  "We have seen many times, even in hard-fought elections, that the loser recognizes his defeat.  However, this has not been the case in Venezuela.  The old politics did not recognize the results of the recall referendum announced by the CNE.  It is not surprising, because never did the old parties and their partners say that they were willing to recognize the results.  Chávez called on the opposition to seek peace and reconciliation.  The implacable enemies of the Bolivarian process have turned down the President's offer.  They don't want peace or reconciliation, not only because they ran out of democratic breath but also because they have to ask for Washington's permission first.  AD and Copei are unable to make their own decisions."


"A Petrified Change" 


Journalist Roberto Giusti wrote in leading conservative  El Universal (8/17): "Nothing can be more sensible and reassuring than the proposal voiced by the Democratic Coordinator representative, Alberto Quirós Corradi, to cross-check the results of the automated votes against the paper votes deposited in the ballots boxes with the presence of all the parties involved.  This should be done as soon as possible....  If the figures match, the Democratic Coordinator should recognize Chavez's victory, but if they don't, Chavez will have to leave Miraflores.  This simple count will bring tranquility to the country, will reestablish the calm that is about to be lost and will restore CNE's credibility.  Fraud is not only altering the electoral results with the help of a hacker's tricks.  Fraud is, also, the artificial enlargement of the Permanent Electoral Register (REP), the arbitrary change of many voters' assigned polling stations, the obstacles for voters abroad, the scandalous use of the public monies for the electoral campaign and the abuse of power, as well as buying off voters and the manipulation of the most vulnerable people by means of giving out some money that do not solve their real problems.  Fraud is also a recall vote whose main goals: reuniting the country, curbing on violence and finding a solution to the political crisis, do not seem to have been achieved.  The country is divided, as it was before, into two halves and to judge from what the President's speech, there's no the least intention to rectify."

"Clear Results"

Sensationalist daily 2001 editorialized (8/17): "CNE's preliminary results of the presidential recall referendum on Monday morning, must be endorsed now by an audit of the ballot boxes and the corresponding tallies, so that they convince the Venezuelan society to accept them and clear up the doubts still present.  These preliminary results have to match those of the tallies and the ballot boxes, supposedly in the hands of the CNE because the first results were released without the presence of two of the five CNE authorities and without having installed the Tally Committee."




VenEconomy expresses its view in English-language The Daily Journal (8/17): "Has the opposition suffered a resounding defeat or are we experiencing the biggest electoral fraud since November 1952...?  The only thing to do is to be patient.  We have to wait until all the information and the evidence are available.  Even if it turns out to be a barefaced robbery of votes, it is necessary to have the skill and intelligence to deal with the problem without falling into the government's trap.  Despite being allegedly prepared for a possible fraud, the opposition slipped up and twice over.  Now, not only does it have to prove that it won the referendum, but it has to do so without violence."


"The Hour of Repression Has Come"


Jose Armando Campos wrote in leading economic newspaper Reporte (8/17):  "Everything turned out well for Chavez...his strategy worked almost perfectly...the electoral fraud was schemed and they only needed the main arbiter Francisco Carrasquero, between midnight and daybreak, to shout the final out....  With the endorsement of the preliminary results by the Carter Center and the OAS, the official repression and the definite assault on the media are being decreed...Chavez said it this week in a ministerial council, 'If I win the recall referendum on Sunday, I will start the final battle against the media.'   But his threats did not stop there, he swore that he would finish with the Democratic Coordinator and would take some governors to prison....  We already said it, hard days and much violence are ahead of us."


"The Old Politics And The Results Of The Recall Referendum"


Pro-Government daily Diario Vea editorialized (8/17): "We have seen many times, even in hard-fought elections, that the loser recognizes his defeat.  However, this has not been the case in Venezuela.  The old politics did not recognize the results of the recall referendum announced by the CNE.  It is not surprising, because never did the old parties and its partners say that they were willing to recognize the results.  Chavez called on the opposition to seek peace and reconciliation.  The implacable enemies of the Bolivarian process have turned down the President's offer.  They don't want peace or reconciliation, not only because they ran out of democratic breath but also because they have to ask for Washington's permission first. AD and Copei are unable to make their own decisions."



Political analyst Carlos Blanco commented in leading conservative daily El Universal (8/17): "Venezuela's democratic society has been the victim of a fraud.  A continued fraud has violated the country's democratic will; the path is open to the authoritarianism that now reigns in Venezuela.  The fraud took place not only in the electronic voting, an area to be discussed by engineers and attorneys.  The political fraud started long time ago when basic elements of the citizens' rights were negotiated.  Carter and Gaviria take part in the final scene.  They have said that their figures match those of the Government; and, undoubtedly, this is true.  If the Democratic Coordinator did not question the voting machines through which the fraud was made, how could we expect that Carter and Gaviria did?  Chavez was not recalled; but, without a doubt, the facts have recalled many leaders.  Different times are coming.  The avalanche in support of the 'yes' vote on Sunday, changed into an electronic defeat, demands a new leadership.  The fight begins again."

"A Reasonable Doubt"

Afternoon liberal newspaper Tal Cual editorialized (8/17):  "The core of the denouncement of the Democratic Coordinator is the numbers....  According to the norms of the CNE, an audit on a random sample of the voting machines had to be done to cross-check the paper ballots with the tally forms.  This audit had to be done right after the end of the elections.  Was this audit done?  If it was done, with the presence of witnessed from both sides, the results should have been made public right away, duly certified by both parties, and that would have been enough to clear up any doubt.  Now, are these results known?  Why are they made public?  Is it true that the audit was done, but the witnesses from the opposition were not present?  Is it true that a sample of voting machines was not chosen at random? These doubts should be cleared up as soon as possible by the CNE itself, because these complaints are absolutely pertinent.  If Jorge Rodríguez said that the CNE would be willing to carry out any additional audit, then this offer should be translated into actions.  If there was a fraud, the proofs have to be disclosed as quickly as possible, because neither the OAS not the Carter Center can accept as a proof the discrepancies between Sumate's exit polls (which in the end are just polls) and the results of the tally forms."

"Only The Three of Them know it"


Journalist Gilberto Alcalá opined in leading working class tabloid Ultimas Noticias (8/17): "The exemplary electoral event on August 15...ended with the results announced by the CNE behind closed doors, only the three pro-government authorities got together and launched a 'dawn raid' with the preliminary results...CNE authorities Zamora and Mejías were not allowed to participate in the total count of the votes, so this act was neither democratic nor institutional."


"Electoral Dementia"


Journalist Carlos Diaz Sosa wrote in leading working class tabloid Ultimas Noticias (8/17): "As the night of August 15 was approaching, the presidential recall referendum turned into a painful story perversely planned to have colonel Hugo Chavez remain in power...After the gigantic demonstration staged last Thursday, the opposition believed that it was closer and closer to get to power via the recall vote...But the queues were long, the day turned into night and suspicions grew.  Jorge Rodríguez and Francisco Carrasquero knew what was going on.  The announcement that the polling stations would be open until 12:00 a.m., showed that the worst was about to begin."


"Satrapy And Democracy"


Journalist Fernando Egaña wrote in sensationalist  2001 (8/17): "The Venezuelan people vote in democracy and Chavez's regime responded as a Satrap...The reality of the elections indicate that the 'yes' vote won the recall.  Preliminary poll, exit polls, journalists' reports and observers in different regions of the country indicate the same.... The CNE did anything to complicate the most simple vote.  Satrapy, between midnight and daybreak, landed another blow on the people's will.  It is not known if the results were inverted...what it is known is that the order came from Miraflores."

"This Was Announced"

Henrique Lander commented in leading conservative  El Universal (8/17): "This new, but announced, mockery of the Venezuelan people, clearly marks the beginning of a stage for the civil society in which Hugo Chavez's pro-communist dictatorship will grow more violent and as a result of the pro-government Attorney General, a mercenary Supreme Justice Tribunal and the 'dawn raids' of the State security forces led by Cuban G-2, many people will be persecuted and incarcerated."


"Revolution In The Revolution"


Weekly Las Verdades de Miguel editorialized (8/16): "Voters openly decided to vote 'no' in an impressive turnout.  What is going to happen?  For now, the sure thing is that the most virulent adversaries of the Government will undertake a tactical retreat.  Demons are still out there and they are going to insist on driving Chávez from office by force.  In order to do so, they have the support of those who have declared an oil war in which Venezuela is the next target.  The problem for the reaction lies in how to disavow such overwhelming popular decision.  In the oil war in which the conclave of the new imperialist expansion wants to involve us, we deserve a ruler that lives up to the challenge."


"Inverted Mirror Image"


In her regular column in evening newspaper El Mundo (Internet version) Isa Dobles commented (8/16):  "Yesterday [15 August] was a glorious day.  A big-hearted people...came out on the streets to provide an overwhelming demonstration of democracy....  Those unending lines on the streets, those heroic people who went without eating, with no water, enduring rain and hot all of that falling prey to a vile trick?  Are we being played for suckers by Chávez once again?....  How is it possible that we have fewer votes than during the signature review process?  Did the handout work of fake identification cards to foreigners who under the Chávez government will be just as Venezuelan as General [Carlos] Alfonzo Martinez and the courageous and honorable [jailed Baruta Municipality Mayor] Enrique Capriles Radonski...?  They saddled us with the fingerprint capture machines and we accepted them. What is going to happen...?  The obvious division of the [National Electoral Council, CNE] directors guaranteed that a disaster was imminent.  What about the people...?  Those courageous and honorable people whose hearts beat with hope and determination.  Why do we not take to the streets, those of us who voted in favor of the Yes, in order to convince ourselves of the spontaneous response of our real numbers...?  Today we have a confused Venezuela which is in shock.  How can we confront the future in the hands of a [National Electoral Council President Francisco] Carrasquero, [CNE Director Jorge] Rodriguez, [Supreme Tribunal of Justice President Ivan] Rincon, [Deputy Iris] Varela, [Deputy Luis] Tascon, [Prosecutor General] Isaias Rodriguez, [Public Ombudsman German] Mundarain, [Prosecutor Danilo] Anderson, etcetera?  And what about Enrique Capriles...?  Does prison await those of us who still believe that decency and freedom are the main values in a democracy?"


"Now, Towards New Battles"


Pro-government daily tabloid Diario VEA (8/16) editorialized:  "New battles await us.  One victory is not enough.  This one will never be the last or the end of the combats.  Without a doubt, the high electoral support obtained by President Chávez is even more significant if we take into account the abundance and the caliber of the media used by the opposition.  President Chávez's victory is supported by the popular vote once again.  Now we must make the most of the revolutionary victory; we should not sit on our laurels, but undertake the coming tasks with great energy."


"Recall Referendum Results"


An editorial in independent Tal Cual asserted (8/16):  "If the term 'dawn raid' has any meaning, it is the meaning that has been given to it by   [CNE President Francisco] Carrasquero's bulletin (to give his announcement a name).  There are too many elements that are puzzling and which give rise to suspicion.  First of all, what was the reason for that announcement between midnight and daybreak, while the country was sound asleep?  Why were Carrasquero, [Jorge] Rodriguez, and [Oscar] Battaglini--the organizers of the 10- to 12-hour queues that millions of citizens patiently waited out--in such a hurry to issue a bulletin that no one was pressuring them to issue?  After the voting process was extended to midnight (and some people were still voting after that time) the fact that Carrasquero made his announcement at 4 a.m. has all the earmarks of an operation meant to take the country by surprise.  Rectors [Ezequiel] Zamora and [Sobella] Mejias made very serious charges, and the public is demanding an explanation in this regard.  How can it be possible that the witnesses for the opposition (as well as those for the government, who did not even show up) did not have access to the room where the totals were being compiled?  How can it be possible that no one has presented the result of the audit that should have been performed on a random sample from the voting machines?  How can it be possible not only that they were not allowed entry but also that the witnesses for the opposition who should have been present at that audit had not even been accredited?  How can it be possible for practically definitive results to be announced without the vote-count certificates having been certified?  And who, pray tell, compiled the totals since the committee that was appointed for that purpose--made up of Jorge Rodriguez, Ezequiel Zamora, Luis Ramirez and Andres Brito--did not even convene?  This newspaper, which has consistently maintained that the parties involved should recognize the results--cannot help but express these doubts and, for the very same reason, demand a cross-check between the actual votes and the numbers recorded by the machines.  The country also has the right to ask the observers from the OAS and the Carter Center for an assessment of the pertinent organizations in the process as well as the results.  Otherwise, the suspicion that an electoral fraud might have occurred will only keep on growing stronger."


ARGENTINA:  "Chavez, Seeking To Concentrate More Power"


Pilar Conci, on special assignment in Caracas for daily-of-record La Nacion wrote (8/18): "With his tenure, re-validated after his clear victory in a recall that threatened the continuity of his government, President Chavez now seems decided to increase and concentrate his power even further.With a virtual 'green light' granted to him by an opposition which yesterday showed signs of division and which began to lose credibility due to its insistence in calling the election a fraud that it cannot prove for now, the Venezuelan leader will try to increase his control over Justice, security forces and the media. Vice President Rangel acknowledged this.In the meantime, the OAS and the Carter Center - the international observers that had already endorsed the result --, announced yesterday that they would carry out a random audit of 150 election tables with the purpose to dispel all doubts regarding the legitimacy of the official estimates. The gesture is clearly aimed at satisfying the demands of the opposition."


"Beyond Recall"


An editorial in liberal, independent Buenos Aires Herald read (8/18):  "Was Sunday's recall referendum in Venezuela a triumph of democracy or the prelude to elected dictatorship along the lines of Juan Domingo Peron....  The legitimacy of the renewed mandate of President Chávez depends, of course, on the validity of Sunday's vote and this will take time to elucidate--despite the assurance of international observers, it seems suspicious that the votes favoring recall should not only fall so far short of recall petition signatures but even of the Chávez 2000 total of 3,757,773 votes set as the initial target.  And even ruling out direct fraud (as one probably should), what about the indirect fraud of buying up poor votes with a gush of petrodollars?"


"Venezuela: Opposition Doesn't Give Up and Wants New Recall"


Pablo Ceron held in leading Clarin (8/18):  "Challenging on Sunday, enraged and accusing on Monday, in the past hours, Venezuelan opposition began to show signs of deep shock and chaos within its organization, among its followers at least. The result of the recall referendum undoubtedly implied a defeat that's hard to accept for the so-called Democratic Coordinator.  Yesterday, at all times, on the street and in declarations to the media, there appeared the first voices of rejection of people who accused the opposition of 'falling in the trap of Chavez's followers' - because they believe the referendum ended up legitimizing Chavez in the eyes of the rest of the world - and said they felt abandoned by opposition leaders.... Perhaps, the last-minute try aimed at reversing the double defeat - first with Chavez and second vis-à-vis public opinion - is the unusual announcement of the most visible leader of this opposition alliance, Enrique Mendoza, President Chavez's worst enemy and a potential presidential candidate in a very short time. Mendoza declared that once all the evidence is collected to prove 'the fraud' perpetrated by the official party, they will impugn the recall referendum to call a new one."


"U.S. Also Acknowledges Chavez's Victory"


Business-financial Ambito Financiero reported (8/18):  "Yesterday, the U.S. set aside its initial caution and acknowledged Hugo Chavez's victory in Sunday's referendum which, according to analysts, deprives the opposition in Venezuela of its most important trump card to pressure for an international rejection of the transparency of the elections.  According to State Department spokesman Adam Ereli, Chavez received 'the support of the majority of the voters. It's a very important end to Venezuela's political crisis.'.... Until yesterday, Washington had remained cautious before evaluating the referendum, saying it had to investigate fraud accusations launched by the opposition. But Ereli acknowledged that Secretary Powell had already anticipated last week that if the recall took place with freedom, justice and transparency, it would mean a very important step towards a peaceful, democratic and constitutional solution of the present crisis in Venezuela.... Despite the politically important gesture of endorsement of Chavez's polemical victory, the spokesman reiterated there's still reason for 'concern' over the possible irregularities in the process, and insisted that 'it's important that these concerns are discussed in a transparent way.' This is why he urged the National Electoral College in Venezuela... to conduct a special investigation on the issue and dispel any pending doubts, as part of the 'national reconciliation' process."


"After Recall: Chavez, Friend Of Risk For Kirchner"


Joaquin Morales Sola, daily-of-record La Nacion political analyst, opines (8/18): "The truth is that President Kirchner supported Chavez like no other known Argentine President would. The reasons for this support were a combination of strategic interests and deep empathy with the Venezuelan leader's personalistic and 'strong-man' style.  Chavez has won more than the Venezuelan recall referendum. He also managed to surround himself of Latin America's progressiveness, which forgot he was a former military that attacked a democratic government.  Chavez is the product of a terminal crisis of Venezuela's historic political party system - undermined by ineptitude and corruption --, but his appearance and permanence are far from becoming a solution..... Kirchner... never failed to attend every appointment with Chavez and never cancelled any trip to Venezuela. He didn't even postpone the trip he should have at least delayed out of a minimum degree of neutrality...when he went to Caracas and Isla Margarita precisely when the election campaign in Venezuela was already in full swing.... The Argentine President's reluctance to travel even led him to cancel, at the last minute, his announced presence at the inauguration ceremony of the new President of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez.... It's not a matter of protocol events, but rather a matter of opportunities to establish a personal relationship with key figures in the region. Without a defined foreign policy and with very few trips to the rest of the world, Kirchner's insistence with Venezuela turns that relationship into an almost exclusive one. Naturally, the world talks about a Chavez-Kirchner axis.... The alliance with Chavez separates Argentina from two of her closest neighbors, Chile and Uruguay.... Is Kirchner ready to present himself to the rest of the world as Chavez' partner, as he's been doing for the past months?For the time being, everything seems a consequence of President Kirchner's appeal for progressiveness and, more than anything, his aversion to being criticized by Argentine left-of-center sectors. There's still the unanswered question on the price he will have to pay for pleasing himself."

"With Its Eyes Placed On Business, Argentina Bets On Chavez" 


Lucas Colonna, international columnist of daily-of-record La Nacion, wrote (8/16):  "The Argentine Government has no doubts: the confirmation of Hugo Chavez in power should not be considered less than a positive fact while his defeat would mean the opposite....  It is because since President Kirchner took office, the ties between Argentina and Venezuela were fostered from both sides....  Actually, (the two leaders') political ideas coincide: the Argentine government agrees with Chavez on the need for regional integration, but with the purpose to strengthen the economic exchange within South America rather than to promote a rupture with the rest of the world."


BRAZIL:  "Friends Of Venezuela, Not Friends Of Chávez"


Center-right O Globo editorialized (8/19):  "As he congratulated President Chávez for his victory...President Lula stated that Venezuela was strengthened by the episode.  For sure.  That’s what takes place in any country whenever people have the opportunity to express their mind and make it prevail.  One just doesn’t expect Lula to resume the mistaken position of open support to Chávez.  We are in favor of the strengthening of Venezuela’s democratic institutions, but without taking a side in its internal disputes.  After all, the group 'Friends of Venezuela,' created just in time by a GOB initiative, is not meant to be 'Friends of Chavez'."


"Venezuela, Dream And Nightmare"


Liberal Folha de S. Paulo political columnist Clovis Rossi declared (8/19): "I would never give a Nobel Prize in democracy to Hugo Chávez. But facts are facts, and in terms of respect to democratic rules, only the Venezuelan opposition is worse than Chávez.  Evidence of this is the opposition's insistence not to accept the referendum returns that confirmed the president's mandate. International observers endorsed the fairness of the vote, whose result was not a product of fraud.... Chávez is far beyond being the leader of my dreams, but, I insist, the opposition against him is a nightmare." 


"Render Unto Chávez The Things Which Are Chávez's"    


Liberal Folha de S. Paulo political commentator Eliane Cantanhede opined (8/19): "President Hugo Chávez not only won the referendum.... Chávez has shown that he is capable of fulfilling all constitutional provisions, that he has the support of Venezuelans, and that there is no one in the opposition capable of facing him. He is the nation's interlocutor with the international community and with trade partners.... The USG detests Chávez.  It is simple: Venezuela is the world's fifth largest oil producer and one of the most important oil providers to the U.S."


"Nothing Has Changed In Venezuela"


The lead editorial in center-right O Estado de S. Paulo (8/17) emphasized:  "The fact that Chávez has received 58 percent of the votes does not mean that Venezuelans have given him a new mandate.  While the government and the opposition do not make a serious and continued effort towards national conciliation and Venezuela remains profoundly divided, both politically and socially, the referendum returns will only indicate that one party has received more votes than the other....   Since his first election, in 1998, Chávez has been using the tools of democracy to accumulate a sum of powers that could only be found in the old dictatorships....  Instead of uniting the nation, Chávez incited the poor against the middle class, the business sector and all forms of social organization....  Chávez produced an unprecedented political, social and economic crisis in Venezuela....  If Chávez does not use the referendum returns as an instrument to resolve the split he deepened, Venezuela will remain involved in the crisis."


"Chavez's Victory"


Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (8/17):  "The fact that Chavez has won the referendum and confirmed his legitimacy is not enough to make him an autocrat or to make him immune to criticism.  Far from that, the referendum returns have shown that Venezuela is divided....  And a president cannot be president for only half of the nation.  Chavez should learn from his mistakes.  Above all, he must recognize that the course of confrontation in which he placed the nation is harmful to everyone.  Now that he has won and renewed his leadership, he must behave with magnanimity, listening to the demands of his adversaries....  Venezuela must rediscover politics as a means for negotiated resolution of conflicts.  Only this will be capable of eliminating the risk of a civil war."


"Unequivocal Electoral Result"


Center-left Jornal do Brasil editorialized (8/17):  “Sunday’s referendum gave Hugo Chávez the right to remain in power until the end of his mandate, in January, 2007.  It is a legitimacy aquired through the unequivocal electoral result, reaffirmed by respectable international observers, such as the Organization of American States and the Carter Center.  However, democratic rebirth and the pacification will depend on both sides’ behavior.  The opposition will have to respect the voters’ decision and collaborate with the country’s political and economic stability.  The international community won’t tolerate further coup attempts or a new strike wave.  It is up to the now strengthened Chávez to break his histrionic, aggressive outbreaks with populist deliriums.  Moderation and disposition to dialogue will be essential for the country’s institutional reconstruction.”


"Conciliation Necessary"


Center-right O Globo took this view (8/17):  “[Chávez’s statement that the opponent’s ideas should be respected] is a clear call to conciliation; and with all his mistakes, his truculence, his populism and even his past of a coup maker, it’s important now that his call be respected in light of an absolute lack of alternatives for Venezuela....  Whether Chávez’s sudden conciliatory outbreak is convincing or not--in a politician whose populist actions and the aggressive, caudillo rhetoric have only fractured the country--his opponents should demonstrate real patriotism by accepting the reality of his victory and accept the rest of his mandate and of his 'Bolivarian revolution'....  The act of voting implies the commitment of accepting the outcome.  Chávez’s adversaries, therefore, have to express the dignifying behavior of those who have participated in a democratic election, have lost and who recognize the defeat in due respect to democracy.”


"International Community Won’t Tolerate Coup Attempts Or A New Strike Wave”


Center-left Jornal do Brasil stated (8/17):  “Last Sunday’s referendum gave Hugo Chavez the right to remain in power until the end of his mandate, in January, 2007.  It is a legitimacy aquired through the unequivocal electoral result, reaffirmed by respectable international observers, such as the Organization of American States and the Carter Center....  However, democratic rebirth and the pacification will depend on both sides’ behavior.  The opposition will have to respect the voters’ decision and collaborate with the country’s political and economic stability.  The International community won’t tolerate further coup attempts or a new strike wave.  It is up to the now strengthened Chavez to break his histrionic, aggressive outbreaks with populist deliriums.  Moderation and disposition to dialogue will be essential for the country’s institutional reconstruction.”


MEXICO:  "A Venezuelan Countersignature" 


José Antonio Crespo wrotes in the nationalist Universal (8/19): "Too many tribulations and pitfalls faced the Venezuelan referendum before it could happen.  But it was an opportunity permitted by the Constitution that numerous opponents of Chavez did not want to waste. However, besides various suspicious aspects, the question as presented to the Venezuelan electorate implicitly discredited the mandate of the president as somehow unlawful, illicit, also anti-democratic, even though he is a perfectly legal constitutional figure."


 "A Backwards Prophecy" 


Héctor Aguilar Camín held in the business-oriented El Economista (8/19): "The referendum won by Hugo Chavez is a bad sign for Venezuela. Not because Chavez won, but because it took place.  A society divided into antagonistic halves is the worst news for a democratic system.... The mystery of Chavez is the mystery of Latin American populism. Someone should explain why such disastrous political habits of our countries continue to triumph in the imagination of so many Latin Americans as an alternative to be proud of, as dignified, suitable, in a certain sense heroic and truly popular."


"Venezuelan Referendum"


Humberto Hernández H. wrote in the nationalist Universal (8/18):  "Even though the majority of Latin American countries have expressed their congratulations to the Venezuelan people on the results of this democratic process, the most important matter is just beginning to be analyzed.  How to reconcile Venezuela--with its social diversity, its history, its destiny and its profound economic contradictions, among which the marked dependency on oil stands out?  With international prices so high, oil is at the same time the strength and the weakness of Mexico and Venezuela.  Any error in political conduct could have irreparable consequences at this time....  The Venezuelan government should  focus on calming the national psyche and promoting an atmosphere of national harmony."


"Surviving The Propaganda"


Luis Linares Zapata noted in the center-left La Jornada (8/18):  "The referendum last Sunday was the last act in a prolonged and damaging attempt to stop the mobilization of the lower classes by Chávez....  Six out of ten Venezuelans voted in favor of the continuation of a regime that was almost under siege.  But the severe campaign of adverse propaganda was not harmless.  The remaining four citizens--most of them white, well connected with foreign forces and with complete support from the Bush administration, voted against Chávez.  The inclusion of this bulky portion of society will not happen without great difficulties because they will certainly continue to fight for their own pretensions and interests."


"The Triumph Of Chavez"


Sergio Sarmiento noted in the independent Reforma (8/17):  "I can understand how Chavez is a perturbing character for those who are interested in democracy or the well-being of the Venezuelans....  Hugo Chavez has been able to cultivate populism as well or better than most of the greatest masters of this art in history....  The great temptation most likely for the opposition in Venezuela after their frustration with the referendum would be to choose unconstitutional means to try to remove Chavez from power.  A military coup would not accomplish anything other than increasing the social conflict of the last few years. It would be better to wait and let Chavez pay the cost of his political and economic mistakes....  The great question is how much will the situation in Venezuela affect the rest of Latin America.  Chavez represents an example for all the populist spirits in the region, who think the economy can be managed by decree."


"And Now, What's Next?"


Jose Vales judged in the old-guard nationalist El Universal (8/17):  "Chavez can breathe again.  But not just to extend his extremely long speeches and never-ending press conferences, but to make a feasible project out of what more than half of the Venezuelans (mostly from the lower classes) continue to believe in.  (The project should be) one where many of the 3.5 million of Venezuelans that wanted him out of Miraflores can at least feel included."


"Venezuela:  "Defeat Against 'Media-cracy'"


The lead editorial in the left-of-center La Jornada read (8/17): "Venezuelans gave Latin America and the world a lesson of democracy that Washington cannot disregard.  By echoing the opposition's demand to audit the outcome of the referendum, the United States introduces an element that could delay the reconciliation amongst the Venezuelans.  Therefore, the USG is obliged to respect the popular will that was expressed in the ballots, along with the whole international community."


"Chavez And The Referendum"


Academic Gabriela de la Paz asserted in the independent El Norte (8/18): "The rivalry between George W. Bush and Hugo Chavez was expected. Bush has made several mistakes. Chavez has an anti-U.S. rhetoric that generates affection in a region overwhelmed by debt and the invasive role of international financial organizations. But Bush didn’t calculate his steps correctly and during the coup d’etat in 2002 led by businessman Pedro Carmona, he supported too soon the rebels, against U.S. democratic principles (because like it or not, Chavez arrived in power through elections), without going further. In other words, there were no troops in Venezuela, nor additional action but the communiqué that Bush issued on the advice of Condoleezza Rice. Even worse, the denial before the question was asked usually makes one suspect (something irregular) and the U.S. denied any participation in the coup before the question was even posed.… The outcome of the referendum not only favors Chavez but also the leftist party leaders  that are willing to take advantage of the disenchantment of neo-liberal policies in Latin America.… For the companies, Chavez generates distrust due to his rhetoric and populist policies. There is simply no guarantee that tomorrow he won’t go against them. In addition, the battles with the opposition, memories of the marches in December and national strikes, increase the risk of operating in Venezuela.”


CHILE: "Victory And New Goals For Chavez"


Leading-circulation, independent daily La Tercera editorialized (8/17):  “It is true that Venezuela’s history of dark episodes and accusations of all kinds in the fight for power leaves room for suspicion.  But in this case the difference is that the international observers - the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Carter Center- endorsed the results immediately yesterday.... The opposition will have to acknowledge Chavez’ victory, because unless there is a radical change in the evaluation made by the international observers that shows there was fraud, Chavez’ stay in power is unquestionable, and most importantly, legitimate....    However, Chavez must not forget that he must now govern for all Venezuelans, and not just for those who voted for him.”


"Chavez’ Victory"


Government-owned, editorially independent  La Nacion (8/17):  “Although the opposition has voiced its doubts regarding the results of the referendum...the political signals coming from Venezuela confirm the validity for the results.  The Secretary General of the OAS, Cesar Gaviria, and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who attended the electoral process as observers, have acknowledged the Venezuelan President’s victory....  We must not dismiss the possibility of disputes over the way in which the referendum developed - it lasted 18 hours.  But everything seems to indicate that the central fact that Chavez passed this tough test will not vary....  It would be a pity if the referendum does not resolve the problems that Venezuela is facing and that have strongly divided the country.  Let us hope that it will lead to create conditions for the parties that have faced each other to find a way to live together that will strengthen democracy.”


"Chavez Better Than Chaos"


In its prime-time newscast, conservative Catholic University Television’s international pundit Karin Ebensperger stated (8/17):  “Venezuelan oil exports are so important today that even the U.S., led by President George Bush, who is very critical of Chavez for being opposed to the free market and for supporting Fidel Castro, wants stability in Venezuela.  Chavez is better than chaos, and that is his strong point.”


"Chavez's Plebiscite"


Popular, conservative, afternoon daily La Segunda (8/16):  “Hugo Chavez has the support of several Latin American presidents and of Fidel Castro.  Therefore, his permanence in power increases the chances of a populist bloc in the continent that opposes economic orthodoxy, gives priority to the personality of its leaders, takes international rhetoric to extremes, and prevents true development to overcome poverty.... These differences will no doubt complicate Chile’s future regional relations.”


COLOMBIA: "We Have Chavez For A While"


Leading editorial in top national daily El Tiempo stated (8/19):  “From now on, this vital relationship (between Colombia and Venezuela) must be built on the recognition of what the referendum actually revealed. Insisting on regime change... will not lead to anything constructive. The facts require getting along with the reconfirmed President Chavez, however wild and volatile (he might be).” 


"An Alliance With Venezuela"


The leading editorial in business and economic La Republica stressed (8/19):  “Although we do not play a part in the electoral results in Venezuela, this could be an excellent opportunity to strengthen our commercial ties.”


"And Now What?"


An op-ed by Deputy Director Rodrigo Pardo in top national El Tiempo noted (8/19): “The referendum did not remove  Chavez or end the division. It just produced a tense calm.”


ECUADOR:  “Venezuelan Democracy”


A column by Rodrigo Fierro Benitez in Quito’s leading centrist El Comercio held(8/19):  “The victory of President overwhelming....  It demonstrates that his administration must not have been as bad as his detractors claimed.… Venezuelan democracy has won.”


“Venezuela, Division Of The Powerful”


A column in Quito’s center-left Hoy (8/19): “Venezuela has been fractured for many years, and today even more dramatically so....  In an environment charged with fear, tension, and suspicion, nothing the government says generates confidence; and everything the opposition says generates suspicion....  Chavez is not a president who wants harmony either; if that would have been the case, he would not have gloated so as soon as he won the referendum...”


"That Colonel, And This Colonel"


A column by Carlos Vera Rodriguez in Quito’s leading centrist El Comercio (8/19):  “The recall was not successful in Venezuela more because of the discredit of the opposition than the manipulation of the Colonel, who successfully presented the matter as a vote against Bush.” 


"The Weight Of Democracy"


A column by Enrique Valle Andrade in Quito’s center-left Hoy (8/19):  "The victory was not as overwhelming as Chavez portrayed in his euphoric victory speech, but it is enough to clear any doubt about the sentiments of the Venezuelan people with regard to a change of government...despite its defeat, the opposition obtained 42 percent of votes, a huge percentage that allows us to forecast that the crisis will not be solved....  What determined Chavez’s categorical victory?  In our opinion, two important factors - the first the unprecedented increase in oil prices that gave the Venezuelan government a budget surplus...that Chavez, with good political instincts, spent in various social projects that benefited immediately the lowest strata of population.  It is well known that in Latin America, a continent living constantly in economic crisis, constituents do not vote for ideologies, but rather with their stomach.... The other undeniable factor was the use the polemical leader made of the anti-American sentiment surfacing everywhere over President Bush’s foreign policy.   What is the opposition to do now?  It played its cards and lost, apparently in a fair game.  It must continue being a zealous watchdog, confronting abuses and arbitrariness of the state when they appear, but it must respect the pronouncement of the people.… The opposition must do so, not only because those are the rules of the democratic game, but also because it is essential for the survival of the system.”


 “Chavez, Homegrown Populism”


An “Analysis” column in Quito’s leading centrist El Comercio (8/18): “Chavez raised above the ashes of an ineffective partisanship that put itself in charge of deepening the inequalities and discrediting democracy...the government took advantage of the moment and of its popularity to change the institutions by means of engaged meticulously in establishing contact with the marginalized sectors of the population.  We cannot overlook the fact that Chavez dedicated a huge amount of resources to paying the social debt.  As a result, few popular sectors failed to support his administration...the government knew how to capitalize on the weaknesses of a disperse opposition without leadership, by appealing to social revenge.”


"Lessons From Venezuela"


An editorial in leading center-right El Universo held (8/17):  “The victory of the ‘yes’ [vote] is explainable in part by the lack of political credibility of the opposition which did not go beyond an heterogeneous front devoid of unified proposals....  The vote in favor of the government was also a manifestation of the rejection of one sector of Venezuelans of U.S. leadership in the region.  It is a phenomenon that, with less radical features, is observed in various South American countries, one that should be analyzed by U.S. foreign policy makers.  More concern and discussion of Latin American problems has become fundamental. But above all, the referendum showed that Venezuela is a divided nation.”


"Chavez’s Victory"


An editorial in Quito’s left, populist La Hora noted (8/17):  “The overwhelming victory of President Hugo Chavez in the referendum of last Sunday not only consolidates the Bolivarian Revolution he fosters and leads, changing radically the social, economic, and political panorama in Venezuela, but also means a reordering of forces in Latin America.  In fact, a new style of government is being consolidated in the continent with Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina as the axis.  For the Venezuelan society, after six years of Chavez government, a period of great hopes is opening.”


EL SALVADOR:  "Another Monstrosity From The United Nations”

Conservative El Diario de Hoy argued (8/17): “Regulatory organs of the United Nations (sic) regularly make pronouncements about Latin American democracy, defining it according to their whims.  In so doing, they can speak of advances and they define at will. And when defining it as they wish, they can speak of progress, stagnations, retrogressions or problems, depending on their particular agenda at any given moment.  But democracy can really be defined as a political system based on votes which are individual, secret, free and well-informed, by means of which those responsible for conducting a government are elected....   Democracy is not an end in itself but an instrument to defend and to perfect the Rule of Law and safeguard the fundamental liberties of individuals and society as a whole....   It is to misunderstand and even cheapen [the idea] of democracy when, via a vote, a dictatorship is installed which then proceeds to dismantle the legal order and to enslave its citizens settles in, as happened with Hitler and is no happening with Chávez."

"Venezuela Still More Divided" 

Moderate La Prensa Grafica (8/17): ”The traumatic Venezuelan experience should be instructive for the other Latin American nations....   The Chávez case is symptomatic and emblematic of the serious structural political crisis into which Venezuela fell in 1992 [with the coup against Carlos Andrés Perez].  Since then Venezuela has been more and more immersed in a vortex of never-ending political, social and economic traumas.  Chávez is the direct product of all these crises...and...his leaving the political scene will be difficult....  Last Sunday's referendum...has  worsened the dispute between Chavistas and Antichavistas.  Both the OAS and the Carter Center have judged the process normal, but the opposition has rejected the results....  The conflict remains and the level of tension, if possible, is even greater.”


GUATEMALA:  "Poverty"


Jose Carlos Marroquin held in afternoon La Hora (8/18):  “Monday morning’s result in Venezuela is simple:  The existing division between rich and poor is clear, some have more money and others more votes, The time will come when society gets tired and seeks ‘the sake of the majority’”.


"Populism Vs. Neoliberalism"


Influential El Periodico carried a column by staff writer (8/19): “The result was accepted by insiders and those outside, including Bush.…The referendum verified that Venezuela is divided and torn at every social status.  The agreement expressed at the polls could (should) be extended to the political and economical sectors.”


"Not  Everything Is Written In Venzuela"


The main editorial in business-oriented daily Siglo Veintiuno (8/19):  “Not only is the transparency of an election involved, nor the stability of the Chavist government.  It is the stability of the rest of Latin America, because being Venezuela, along with Mexico and the United States, is one of the three main countries producing oil in the hemisphere.  It has an important economic and political influence over the other countries in the region.”


"Lessons In Venezuela"


The main editorial in leading  Prensa Libre stated (8/18):  “The recognition of the OAS and several Latin American countries, as well as the United States, closes the Venezuelan case.  Hugo Chávez, legitimized, will have to weather the crisis of the economic effects of the result of this referendum.”


"Chávez:  Let's Learn The Lesson"


Conservative, business-oriented Siglo Veintiuno carried an op-ed from Carmen Rosa De Leon-Escribano stating (8/18):  “The electoral results of Venezuela are a fiasco for the political opposition.  Not only were they not able to get rid of the controversial president, but they made him stronger.  It looks like we are going to have Chávez for a long time.”


"Venezuela, So Close To The Market"


An op-ed by Gustavo Berganza in influential El Periodico stating (8/17):  “Chavez has been extremely skillful in projecting himself as a nationalist leader, contrary to what he describes as ‘U.S. imperialists ambitions’…but see the paradox in the economy:  when not revealing the news of the favorable results for Chavez, the worlds market reacted in a positive manner, with a drop of 1.3 % in the price of Brent crude for September.  Poor Venezuela:  so far from God and so close to the market”


Public Spiritedness In Venezuela


Largest-circulation tabloid Nuestro Diario held (8/17): “Venezuelans have given a lesson to Latin America and the world, on how mass sovereignty can be practiced, removing or confirming elected officials, considering the work realized during the first half of their presidential term....  According to the president his victory was ‘clean, transparent and convincing’, the opposition does not accept it and assures that ‘there was fraud’, which indicates that fight against power will not end as promptly as was expected.”



JAMAICA:  "Chavez Has Popular Mandate, For Now"


The conservative newspaper Gleaner (8/17):  “The reaction of the U.S., which has clashed with Chavez over his relations with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, was dismissive of the allegations of fraud.  A State Department Official said that given the margin of victory it would have had to be fraud on a massive scale spread across the country.  So for now, Chavez has been given a popular mandate to finish his term in office.  We would hope that the Opposition forces, backed by their supporters in Washington, will allow him to do his work, subject only to pressure for alternative policies within a democratic framework.”


NICARAGUA:  "Victory"


J.M. Pasquini Durán held in leftist national  El Nuevo Diario (8/19):  "In spite of this victory it is not easy to predict if the opposition, or at least parts of it, will accept the popular verdict. One has to keep in mind that they accepted this process of consultation after having failed twice in trying to take over power by way of force; once in 2002 and again in 2003. There is an untamed oligarchy, intransigent, that will not accept this result and will not tolerate democracy if it cannot control it. We will have to see if the middle class that supported the opposition are still willing to confront Chávez through other means. That will depend on Chávez's prudence and mettle as well, in order to turn his victory into the starting point of a new way of living together that can overcome the fragmentation suffered over the past few years."


"Reflections on Chavez's Victory"


Leftist national daily El Nuevo Diario ran an op-ed signed by Isaac Bigio (8/19): "Most countries in the world have never had a referendum to decide if their leader should stay in power or be deposed. Venezuela had their first referendum of this nature on Aug. 15. President Hugo Chávez won a triple victory. The first was to have given way to such a process of consultation, the only one of this nature in the world. His second victory is to have won the consultation. A third victory is to have won with 5 million votes, a higher outcome than he or any other Venezuelan have ever obtained.... Opposition has two choices. The first is to not recognize the outcome of the referendum and create a violent destitution of the president through a foreign intervention. The second choice is to accept the loss and work within a legal framework to try to get the President to be more moderate and prepare themselves for the next elections. The first choice is not a popular one internally and the U.S. could not enter Venezuela the way they did into Haiti. Also the government is more popular than the Aristides worn down regime. On the other hand, a number of U.S. businesses would not see with good eyes a movement to destabilize their third largest oil provider."


"The Richest Poor People In The Latin American World"


Center-right daily La Prensa ran an op-ed by Sergio Ramírez former vice-president during the Sandinista regime (8/19): "One cannot explain how the richest country in Latin America with its oil can be one of the poorest countries in the level of well-being. The richest are still poorly distributed, in spite of all the revolutionary rhetoric. Bicycles and sewing machines in he hands of those waiting in line to receive them does not create wealth, only adhesion. [...] Chávez's victory does not end the polarization seen in the streets, through gigantic protests in favor or against him. Rather President Chávez threatens a part of society through his boastful speeches in the name of the part of society that he represents. He has not been able to make himself, as the head of State that he is, the conciliator capable of leading the country towards a common project with no exclusions."


PERU:  "The Postponed Venezuelan Democracy"


The center-right El Comercio stated in its lead editorial (8/18):  "Time will tell if there was fraud or not, still it is not difficult to recognize that the Venezuelan referendum had crystal clear and democratic results.  In the end, what was on the table were unequal electoral conditions between powerful and populist government, disposed to purchase consciences and an opposition trusting in the defense of institutional principles which, paradoxically, ended up sustaining an autocratic government.  Political manipulation:  let's be clear.  The CNE did its best to prevent the referendum and imposed a series of restrictions to make a victory of the opposition difficult.  It is also clear that this referendum obliges the Venezuelan political class to reformulate its leadership strategies to remove the stigma that weighs upon it."


"The Opposite Of Chavez"


Juan Carlos Tafur, director of center-right daily Correo stated (8/17): “It is not possible to explain Hugo Chavez’ victory without analyzing Venezuela's past situation.  Chavez surges as a result of the popular indignation due to the political, economic and moral failure of traditional parties.… Chavez’ authoritarianism and rampant populism have not been enough to convince the majority of Venezuelans that going back to the past would represent an improvement.   The collective memory of inefficient and kleptomaniac formal democracies has favored Chavez in spite of the opposition of powerful Venezuelan business groups, almost all the media outlets and opinion leaders an the international community lead by the U.S.   This is a lesson that Peruvian parties and politicians should learn.”


“Venezuela:  Isolation and Polarization”


A left-of center columnist presented these views in the  centrist  Peru.21 (8/17):  "The defeat of the Coordinadora Democratica will have multiple consequences beyond the Venezuelan boarders.  As Peruvians well know, a referendum as a constitutional formula for citizen participation is not much reliable.…  It is evident that Chavez shamelessly used huge resources from oil exports for his electoral campaign… During the last year his government harassed with the media with greater intensity.… intimidated voters who supported the referendum…  security forces have perpetrated abuses and the military participation in the structure of the political power is in rise.  In the current Venezuelan political situation the polarization promoted by Chavez’ government will become even more serious.…  The opposition is also responsible since they have not offered alternatives to Chavez’ authoritarianism.  His interventionism in the domestic affairs of other countries in the region should be something of major concern… The permanence of Chavez in power will be a factor of regional instability and a problem for the Andean integration efforts.”  


"Chavez Stays"


Center-left daily La Republica stated in its lead editorial (8/17):  “For the first time in the world’s political history a popular referendum was conducted to decide if a president remains in power or is dismissed.…  The estimates of both electoral observers, the Carter Center and the OAS, coincide with the initial results announced by the National Electoral Council of Venezuela.  This means that the referendum was performed with acceptable transparency and has met the international electoral standards.  The opposition has denounced a massive fraud, something that will be very difficult to prove.  However, 41% of votes in their favor demonstrate that Venezuela is divided...the crisis is such that Chavez should be prudent...and find a way to avoid deepening the differences and making his country governable.  The opposition needs to build leaderships and convince that there will be a viable alternative in the year 2006.” 


CANADA:  "In Venezuela, A Defeat For Freedom"


The conservative National Post lamented (8/18):  "Venezuela's Sunday plebiscite on the future of Hugo Chávez, the leftist demagogue who acceded to the country's presidency in 1998, has produced an easy victory for Mr. Chávez.  The president's opponents are crying foul, claiming that the vote was rigged.  But international observers, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, have given the vote their blessing, affirming the electoral legitimacy of one of Latin America's most dangerous leaders....  Mr. Chávez's popularity had waned, and his opponents saw him as vulnerable.  The Venezuelan opposition were able to gather up enough signatures to force a referendum on his leadership, even though he had two years to go in his six-year mandate.  But if nothing else, Mr. Chávez is a clever politician--and he appears to have again outwitted his opponents by capitalizing on a rise in world oil prices....  The results of Sunday's referendum are unfortunate.  Venezuela has missed an opportunity to halt its march toward an old-style Latin American autocracy.  We'd like to think the region had undergone a real transformation in the last two decades; one that embraces free markets and democracy over junta rule.  President Chávez's victory suggests otherwise."


"Venezuela Rallies Behind A Reformer"


The liberal Toronto Star opined (8/17):  "[M]ost Venezuelans have three times now in the last six years strongly endorsed Chavez and his program to narrow the grotesque rich/poor gap that afflicts the oil-rich nation of 25 million.  They supported him in elections in 1998 and 2000, by a respectable near-60 per cent margin each time.  And they did it again this past weekend, in a referendum....  This is a repudiation of democracy, pure and simple....  How many times must Chavez prove he has the right to serve out his term, which runs through 2006?  How much turmoil must Venezuelans be put through before the majority's will can prevail?...  Chavez is no saint.  He has centralized power in the presidency, bypassed Congress on economic policy and purged his political foes from government, the military and the courts.  To many, this is Castro-like autocracy.  But he has pumped much of Venezuela's $24 billion annual oil wealth into his 'revolution for the poor.'  He has brought in discount food stores where the needy can buy powdered milk, meat, rice and cooking oil at subsidized rates.  He has pressed big landowners to cede untilled land to poor farmers, improved housing, built schools and clinics, boosted vocational training, and made people better aware of their rights.  And despite his Bush-baiting, Chavez has vowed to continue supplying the United States with 1.5 million barrels a day of oil, 13 per cent of U.S. needs.  He is also paying the foreign debt, keeping creditors happy.  His reform program, while controversial, is hardly revolutionary.  Democracy has only recently taken root in much of Latin America.  It is to be cherished, not subverted.  If Chavez' critics want to press for his ouster, they should do so at the polls rather than seek to destabilize a popular elected government.  That could plunge Venezuela back into the revolutionary turmoil that gripped much of the region a few decades ago, and which his critics so fear."


"Voting for Chavez"


The leading Globe and Mail editorialized (8/17):  "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has survived his country's recall vote, despite the efforts of the opposition to force an election two years before the official expiry of his term in 2006.  This is not the best news for the oil-rich nation, whose potential has been consistently squandered; but, happily, democracy appears to have been well served....  The opposition forces--business, labour and civic groups--came close to meeting the first requirement of the recall vote: that the number of votes cast against Mr. Chavez exceed the number that were cast in his favour in the 2000 election....  Mr. Chavez is no star.  He has done little to fix Venezuela's economy....  His answer to critics is to dismiss them as puppets of the U.S. government.  But it is worth remembering that in Venezuela, threats to democracy are never far from the surface....  President Chavez has a mandate to serve until 2006; the opposition should respect the people's verdict.  If only the self-styled leader of a 'revolution for the poor' were more interested in governing on behalf of all the people, that mandate would be easier to applaud."




FRANCE:  "The Victory Of Chavez"


Unsigned editorial in left-of-center Le Monde (8/17):  “After promising that it would respect the voters’ verdict, the heterogeneous coalition of parties, united only by their hatred for the populist leader of Caracas, denounced what they termed 'massive frauds.'  For the time being, it refuses to bend to the democratic process, and is supported in this by the Bush administration, that has requested an investigation into these purported frauds that none of the independent monitors observed.… It is not because the Bush administration unequivocally groups [Chavez] together with the Cuban dictator and supports his adversaries- even if in an aborted coup in 2002- that we must consider Hugo Chavez as a new Castro.”


"Chavez, Mi-Peron And Mi-Guevara”


Alexander Adler in right-of-center Le Figaro (8/18):  “The United States does not want a major defeat of Chavez.  Considering the state of tension of the oil market, Washington would be better off taking advantage of a constant provision of oil in Venezuela than in a country that is torn by civil war, making the price of oil rise even higher than it already has due to the situation in the Middle East…  A new architecture of the southern continent is in its formative stages.  We witness a new leftist populism, not always tempered or fundamentally opposed to the United States, but also a shaky but still definitive respect for the democratic process.”  


"Political Tactics"


Gerard Dupuy wrote in left-of-center Liberation (8/17):  “The outside monitors have validated Chávez’s victory.  Despite this, and the absence of elements that would cast doubt that it was indeed the majority that expressed itself in the ballot boxes, the opposition persists in its defiance of the legitimate power....  Even Bush’s Americans, who have responsibility in this affair, seem to have tired of the extremist political tactics of their friends in Caracas.”


"The Venezuelan Boiler"


Francoise Couigneau observed in economic right-of-center les Echos (8/17):  “Petroleum markets, which like all other markets, hate uncertainty, have been reassured for a time before going to look in Iraq for new reasons to hike the price of petrol.  But for a time only.  Venezuela remains a cauldron where all the ingredients of economic destabilization, both political and social, are boiling.… Everyone is ready to blame the master of Caracas openly, beginning with Washington.  Though the U.S. is hostile to this friend of Fidel Castro, petrol will always constitute a link of mutual dependence too strong to be broken.”



GERMANY:  "Soft Spot"


Thomas Schmid argued in center-left, weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (8/19):  "The president has only discovered his feelings for the poor a few months before the referendum and helped them out with 'petrol dollars.'  Nevertheless, he keeps asking a pressing question:  how does it come that four out of five Venezuelans live in poverty although it is the world's fifth-largest oil-producing country, a resource which was nationalized 30 years ago?  The opposition, which has governed the country for 40 years and represents the political class, must answer this question.  Chávez says the old oligarchy has put it into its own pockets.  That's too simple, because corruption is also thriving under his rule.  But there might be an important difference to his predecessors:  Chávez seems to have a strategy that might finally also help the poorest.  Of course, his reasons to pursue this policy are pragmatic.  He needs a base.  And he wants to be acknowledged in history books as the person who finalized the work of the national saint Simón Bolivar."




Hinnerk Berlekamp noted in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (8/19):  "Not just Fidel Castro, whose oil supply was at stake last Sunday, but also the left-wing governments in Argentina and Brazil congratulated Chávez.  Like Chávez, both leaders support the project of regional integration in order to enable South America to negotiate with the United States the reduction of trade barriers as an equal partner.  A victory of the Washington-orientated opposition would have meant a serious blow to the Brazilian and Argentine attempts to establish fairer alternatives to the neo-liberal model of the United States.  Chávez's victory strengthened their policy."


"Opposition Cannot Provide Evidence Of Fraud"


Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (8/18) editorialized: "It reflects the desolate condition of the opposition that even one day after the election it cannot come up with any evidence proving its allegation of a giant election fraud that helped Chávez stay in office.  It is rather the group of parties called 'Coordinardora democrática' that deceived people.  Before the recall referendum, it did not tell the poor how it wants to achieve the restructuring of political institutions and an economic rise."


"Chávez's Triumph"


Wolfgang Kunath noted in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (8/17):  "After Latin Americans were first excited about the advantages of the globalization process, the mood in Latin America has become grim.  Mass poverty is undermining democracy.  Why should people vote for a government that lacks a solution for the most pressing problem?  And if people see in their own lives that globalization causes more problems and poses more dangers than it has advantages, they mistrust the state and government that claims that the globalization process is inevitable.  The result is instability, creating a sentiment favorable for people like Chávez."


"Dangerous Mixture"


Torsten Riecke opined in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (8/17):  "Hugo Chávez is certainly not a friend of the White House.  That Washington was relieved about the victory of Venezuela's left-wing populist has one reason and that is oil.  Nobody wants to risk political instability in the world's fifth-largest oil producer.  Not just in America, but around the world people are nervous, given the high oil price, because the new oil shock comes at a time when the world economy is faltering."


"School For Populists"


Armin Lehmann argued in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (8/17):  "The populist Chávez has been democratically legitimated for the third time since his election in 1998; in this case through asking people directly.  Oil markets said they were relieved.  Although he also seems suspicious to oil managers, they are happy, because he is not stupidly risking their business with his policy.  Venezuela conducts its oil business correctly and without complaints by international partners.  Even the U.S., which likes to confront Chávez, has little reason to complain.  If Chávez were defeated it would have meant insecurity for oil bosses.  But the truth is that nobody should be relieved about this victory, because it sends a dangerous message to Latin America.  You could cynically say that Chávez is the first winner of the globalization process.  He has succeeded in securing his power by relying on the poor only.  He does not care about the rest of the country: upper middle class, elites, businessmen, and parliamentarians.  He utilized the failure of politicians cleverly.… Chávez did not change the structures; his policy is not about increasing competitiveness, but he is just redistributing wealth.… Chávez wants to be a new Fidel Castro, but just democratically legitimated.  If the opposition does not come up with a credible alternative soon, he will find more followers.  Not just in Cuba."


ITALY:  "U.S. Watches" 


U.S.-based correspondent Marco De Martino reported for leading, centrist news weekly Panorama (8/20):  “And the United States is watching the victory of another anti-American leader.  At the State Department, they know well what consequences may result from the Venezuelan (pro-Chavez) vote….  Notwithstanding, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas is ready to congratulate Chavez.  According to commentators, it (U.S. approval) has to do with the oil….  However, the U.S. non-interventionist attitude involves its deepest principles, two principles that have ever been the foundation of its politics. The first principle deals with advancing democracy throughout the world and the second is not interfering in other people’s business which is also valid when the ballots give birth to plebiscitary dictatorships or illiberal democracies.”


"Chavez Challenges The U.S., Venezuela Remains A Powder Keg"


Loris Zanatta concluded in his editorial in Rome, centrist Il Messaggero (8/18): “Ultimately, Chavez’s victory is a bitter pill for Washington.  Nobody there will be happy that the unpredictable nationalist is still stuck in their throats, seated as solidly as ever on Venezuelan oil wells.  And most of all, no one could ever deny the fact: campaigning against the United pays off….  And it is pays off because in Venezuela, as in most of the region, U.S. leadership dissipated long ago. Venezuela, U.S. Gives Chavez Its Blessing”


"A Demagogue President Who Bewitched The Left"


Guido Rampoldi commented on page one of left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (8/17):  “In Venezuela, the clash between Hugo Chávez’s patronage and authoritarian populism, and an the opposition, which is just as despotic and incompetent, has ended (for the time being) with the victory of the former.  According to official figures, this president-paratrooper won by a hefty margin a referendum put forward to topple him.  It is probable that Cardinal Castillo Lara is right when he says...that tricks, adopted by the regime to ‘buy’ the votes...and ‘manipulate’ electoral commissioners at the ballots, might have added to that 58 percent approval.  However, according to international observers supervising the referendum, including the Carter Center and the Organization of American States, there were not 'a tremendous amount of fraud,’ as claimed by the opposition.”


"Chávez Wins Among Cries Of Fraud"


Alberto Paolini Zanelli noted in pro-government, leading Il Giornale (8/17):  “After the announcement of his victory, Chávez said:  ‘I’m telling OPEC countries that my government will guarantee stability in the world oil markets.’  A few hours after the end of electoral operations, the price of crude oil significantly dropped in financial markets, which might indicate that investors...especially U.S. investors, consider instability a greater risk than a demagogue and friend of Fidel Castro remaining in power.”


RUSSIA: "Who Needs Problems?"


Yelena Shesternina observed in reformist Izvestiya (8/18): "Washington knows better than to get in another confrontation with Hugo Chavez.   Of late, the Americans have toned down their criticism of Caracas, lest Chavez should respond, with oil prices as high as never before....   Chavez wants no trouble, either.   He is pragmatic and would hate to lose the U.S. market. Speaking of Caracas-Washington ties recently, Chavez aptly remarked, 'Our countries are destined to maintain good relations.'   So the opposition, evidently, has no one but itself to count on."


"It's Better To Have Venezuela As a Partner"


Aleksey Ventslovskiy commented in centrist army-run Krasnaya Zvezda (8/18): "It is common knowledge that Washington's interest in Latin America, in general, and Venezuela, in particular, is all its own.  It has always soughtto control things there.    The reason is not only the energy and other resources but also that region being prone to conflicts.   In playing gameswith OPEC, it is better to have Venezuela as a partner.  The rule is that you support whom you need.   As long as Chavez meets that criterion, he will win."


"Quarrel With Chávez Ill-Advised"


Ernest Sultanov in Caracas filed for business-oriented Kommersant (8/17):  "Observers are of the opinion that for the Bush administration to fall out with the Venezuelan leader completely would be bad now, primarily because this might jack up oil prices even higher in the run-up to the U.S. elections."


AUSTRIA:  "No Winner In Venezuela"


Erhard Stackl, senior editor for liberal Der Standard commented (8/17):  "The oil-consuming world, already unsettled by the Iraq war, the Yukos affair, and China’s economic boom, will have to realize that what is going on in Venezuela is not just a South American revolution operetta with salsa rhythms, cudgels, and shootings that is of no consequence to the rest of the world....  The U.S, already heavily taxed in the Middle East, has so far shrunk back from open intervention (even if Chávez believes--and justly so--that the Americans give massive support to his opponents).  The oil supply is more important.  U.S oil firms have only recently concluded new contracts with Venezuela.  Chávez is not really isolated in South America either.  In July, Venezuela was admitted as an associate member of Mercosur.  And Brazil and Argentina, the precursors of this free trade zone, both have presidents that oppose the U.S and the rich North, though they adopt a more moderate tone.  Argentina’s Nestor Kirchner is presently trying to restructure his country’s debts through direct negotiations with its debtors without taking orders from the IMF.  Brazil’s Lula da Silva, for all his willingness to conduct reforms that will benefit the poor, is nevertheless taking pains not to alienate investors.  Chávez, on the other hand, is laboring under the illusion that to have the backing of the poor at home will enable him to resist the entire world.  Unless he succeeds in striking a compromise with at least some of his opponents, however, this road could lead straight to civil war."


IRELAND:  "Troubled Waters"


The center-right, populist Irish Independent editorialized (8/17):  “Venezuela is the world's fifth biggest oil producer and supplies 13% of the United States' requirements.  Political stability in Caracas is therefore of great importance for the U.S. and the international markets.  Unhappily, the latest developments have left its achievement in doubt.  President Hugo Chávez has had his position confirmed by a comfortable majority in a referendum.  But the opposition have rejected the result, claiming fraud in the electronic voting system....  He has accused President  Bush, who dislikes his friendship with Fidel Castro, of backing that move and of funding the opposition.  At the same time, however, he has continued to guarantee oil supplies to the U.S.  His overthrow, by either democratic or violent means, could lead to turmoil.  The country is deeply divided, with powerful intransigent elements on both sides.  The best hope may be that the next series of elections--parliamentary next year, presidential in 2006--will give democracy a chance to bed down.”


"Chávez's Victory"


The center-left Irish Times (8/17):  "Sunday's recall referendum in Venezuela has reproduced rather than resolved the country's deep cleavage between supporters of the radical populist President Hugo Chávez, who claims a substantial victory, and his opponents who say it is a fraud....  In practice, his policies, while certainly unprecedentedly redistributionist in the Venezuelan context, stop well short of the socialist program feared by his adversaries.  Mr. Chávez has encouraged multinational companies, done a deal with Washington on oil supplies and encouraged popular political and economic engagement and participation by renewing democratic access and street markets.  His objective is to install a welfare state in a country quite lacking in such social support mechanisms.  He has had the confidence (and lately the oil revenues) to criticize Washington's interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and to give a vocal lead to a gathering Latin American disenchantment with U.S. dominance.  Mr. Chávez's direct appeals to supporters through television, abrasive and vivid oratory and strategic political innovations are necessitated by a need to bypass the elite's monopoly of media and state institutions rather than by a conviction that representative democracy should be replaced.  Within such a deeply polarized system such distinctions are easily obscured at home and abroad.  Mr. Chávez will now have to convince sympathizers as well as critics that he can use this victory constructively in what could be a long period in power."



NORWAY:  “A Democracy The United States Doesn’t Want?”


Erik Selmer commented In social democratic Dagsavisen (8/18):  “Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe says Venezuela ‘has provided the world with a good democratic example.’  Isn’t this just this type of democracy that George W. Bush is struggling to establish worldwide?  Now it has landed in his lap in his own backyard....  When Chavez’ eighth victory at the polls in less than six years still does not mean an end to the conflict, the United States bears a large responsibility by supporting the opposition’s allegations about unfair play based on their own election day surveys.” 


ROMANIA:  "Venezuela Is A Poor Country"


In the extremely small independent daily Cronica Romana, foreign policy analyst Razvan Voncu opined (8/18): “Venezuela is a poor country in which most of the population lives under inhuman conditions.  Because of this it has been said in a mocking way that Hugo Chavez is the president of the poor.  Well, he really is!  Venezuela is a poor country and the majority rules in any democracy; it is not President Chavez’s guilt that the majority of citizens are poor and that he, while approaching the issue of poverty, was democratically elected by a vote of the majority.…  Meanwhile, the CIA did its duty, and because you can buy anyone in a poor country, a so-called opposition has appeared.…  Any Latin-American leader who opposes this system and tries to use a part of his country’s assets for its development is an enemy of the U.S.…  Unfortunately, the diversion Chavez  will go on until it succeeds.  This is because no one in the world is inclined to admit the truth that the U.S. is the great sick man of the planet, from an economic, social, moral and political point of view, and that the rest of the world tends to go back to a system of slavery, only because American leaders are incapable of producing reform of their own society and state.”


SPAIN:  "Why Has Chávez Won?"


Darios Valcarcel wrote in the opinion pages of conservative ABC (8/19):  "Chávez has won because he had a democratic mandate, and fighting against democratic mandates is difficult in the Western world....  In addition, and this is ambiguous, Chávez represents a project of distributive justice and certain independence from Washington....  Venezuela is important not only because of its oil.  It has a strategic position in relation to the U.S., Mexico and Cuba, sometimes as an advance party of Brazil....  It also has another value:  Venezuela is a key part of the balance as the fifth side of the Atlantic pentagon, with the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and Cuba.  Chávez has defended himself from great domestic and foreign enemies.  For that, he has committed many abuses.  But he has maintained Venezuelan democracy while facing press and media that were, almost all of them, hostile.  Contrary to Castro, he has understood that he should not yield to dictatorship.  In a minefield, he has often been superior to the opposition."


"Venezuela, The Lost Opportunity"


In a signed op-ed, Antonio Rico wrote in business daily Expansión (8/19):  "The referendum last Sunday was an opportunity, of course, an opportunity to proclaim oneself free, free from stupidity, abuse of power, so many imposed gags and so much fear; but if we are to believe the international observers, nearly sixty percent of Venezuelans are happy in their chains....  But if Jimmy Carter and the OAS have saluted the Chavista victory and even in Washington people congratulate each other on the vote, that means that no one outside Venezuela will now lift a finger....  Hugo Chávez, who surely is no fool, has been able to use poverty as a weapon against freedom and has drawn in society a dividing line woven of hatred and already impossible to be overcome....  The support of a majority of the Venezuelan people to a fake enlightened being like Chávez does not mean the people have made the right choice.  It only means that Venezuela has, unfortunately, the president it deserves."


"Chavez Continues"


Business daily Expansión wrote (8/18):   "Chavez is a populist and a friend of Fidel Castro and one can not say that his government is bringing prosperity and social peace to Venezuela.  But he is a democratic president. Far from what we say about 'low quality democracy' in a country that can hold a dissuasive referendum and elections with international observers, there is democracy and legitimate leaders.  Those peaceful proceedings are unimaginable in the Cuban dictatorship.  The only way for the opposition to change the Venezuelan political course would be to come up with a clear alternative and to shake off from those that hope to expel Chavez".


"Chavez, A Castro-Like Cheater"


Conservative La Razon published a signed editorial by editor-in-chief Luis Anson that said (8/18): "But what did those naive people of democracy and the rule of law expect?  That Chavez was going to lose a referendum he himself organized?  Chavez is a dissolute Castro-ist, surrounded by Fidel's Cubans.  The Caribbean dictator has sent hundreds of experts to Caracas to indoctrinate the Chavistas into how to cheat.  The communists are laughing at the democrats.....  I don't know if Chavez, the new caudillo... has cheated before or after the vote, if he bought botes, if he manipulated the voter rolls, if he's poisoned the computer system, if he's adulterated the results, if he's strongarmed the public through the media.  What I am sure of if that, to a greater or lesser degree, he's cheated....  The implanting, or the attempt to implant, Castroist systems brings as an inevitable consequence the reaction, spurred by Washington, to overthrow them in a military coup.  And we all know what comes next - the emergency doctor, such as Pinochet, who stays for an interminable number of years."


"Chávez's Victory"


Left-of-center El País noted (8/17):  "The real importance of the Venezuela referendum is based on whether it permits the Caribbean country to escape from its deep political and social crisis.  The first indications...unfortunately suggest no end in sight to the conflict....  The greatest merit of the plebiscite...would be to restore political stability and civilized coexistence to Venezuela....  For the opposition, the moment seems to have come to devote its efforts to regroup before next year's general election.  And for all Venezuelans--pro- and anti-Chávez--it is the opportunity to get the country out of a prostration in which more than two thirds of the population flirt with hunger despite the stream of money provided by oil prosperity."


"Venezuela, Divided Because Of Chávez"


Conservative ABC judged (8/17):  "Unfortunately, political instability is going to continue to undermine the future of Venezuela....  Venezuela is split in two, and nothing can be ruled out....  Chávez cannot feel satisfied after being confirmed in this referendum because he knows that an impressing proportion of Venezuelans have proclaimed their outright rejection of the delirious political project he embodies....  The recall referendum is a bad mechanism that has considerably worsened things and brought division even to the heart of the electoral committee, so any gesture that may further tense things should be avoided....  The real question at heart is that Chávez's post-communist regime is a failure in itself, and no matter how much energy and wealth he devotes to staying in power, he won't be able to avoid that, sooner or later, the country will collapse socially and economically."


"Chávez, Legitimized"


Centrist La Vanguardia held (8/17):  "The opposition's protests do not seem opportune or good for Venezuela, after Chávez's clear triumph....  [Chávez's] populism, his outrageous presidentialism and the spectacular demonstrations of which he boasts cannot be enough to question the legitimacy of a politician who, from 1998 to now, has repeatedly subjected himself to the verdict of the polls and always gotten the support of the majority of voters....  It is urgent to restore social cohesion, and for that it is necessary for Hugo Chávez to stop systematically harassing those who oppose his policy.  His legitimacy does not entitle him to rule against 40 percent of the voters.  The opposition, for its part, should accept the result and collaborate on the recovery of normalcy."


"Chávez Wins The Referendum, Venezuela Continues To Be Divided"


Independent El Mundo wrote (8/17):  "After the referendum, Venezuela has awakened even more polarized than it was on Saturday, divided, like an orange, in two.  The message of the opposition has caught on with a urban middle class that does not allow itself to be tricked by cheap demagoguery, but faith in Chávez continues spreading among the thousands of poor who pack Caracas' suburbs.  For them, some of the social aid he has implemented carries more weight than his lack of democratic scruples.  Chávez won the referendum yesterday, but one cannot say Venezuela won in the plebiscite.  The country will continue to lose international prestige in the hands of a questioned leader, unable to respect basic rights such as freedom of press, while the opposition threatens not to stand by and do nothing after the defeat.  Chávez should carefully administer his victory and be conscious that he must win over the other half of Venezuelans."


"Populist Autocratic Government"


Lluis Foix commented in centrist La Vanguardia (8/17):  "Chávez is a caudillo who inaugurates a new way of politics in Latin America, rather distant from the approaches of classic liberal democracies that rest on pluralism, transparency, citizen equality before the law and balance of power.  Chávez has chosen populism and confrontation and the concentration of power in one person....  This policy has given him good results, judging by the millions of Venezuelans who still trust him to the extent of celebrating the victory on Sunday as if it was the definitive salvation of the country....  Venezuela has reinforced a populist caudillo, and it remains to be seen if he will respect the approximately half of the citizens who are not adversaries but enemies."


TURKEY:  “Chavez Hands The U.S. A Defeat”


Deniz Kavukcuoglu commented in the social democrat-opinion maker Cumhuriyet (8/18): “Hugo Chavez has long been a thorn in the side of the US because of his political position, which emphasizes national independence, economic sovereignty, a fair share of oil revenues, and the fight against poverty.  The U.S. hasn’t liked him since the day he was elected, and did everything possible to topple him.  The U.S. provided enormous financial support for the opposition.  In order to prepare the ground for a coup attempt against Chavez in 2002, the Bush administration had given 877,000 USD to the opposition via the National Endowment for Democracy.  Yet Chavez was able to fend off every effort against him, largely because of his strong popular support.  The recent referendum was another U.S.-sponsored attempt to topple Chavez.  The people of Venezuela did not allow this to happen.  The result of the referendum is not only a victory for Chavez, but also a significant defeat for the U.S.”


 "Lessons From Venezuela"


Umur Talu commented in the mass-appeal Sabah (8/19):  “Venezuela brings us a litmus test for recapturing the genuine meaning of some concepts that have been distorted--democracy, freedom, justice, and the fight against terrorism.  Venezuela and Iraq share certain similarities.  Both have oil resources, a high level of poverty despite oil revenues, and political leaders hated by the U.S.  The major difference is that Chávez, unlike Saddam, is an elected leader.  Nevertheless, the Bush administration tried everything to topple Chávez.  When its attempt at a coup failed, the U.S. did not give up, but tried to chip away at Chávez’s legitimacy.  The referendum in Venezuela was a test for Chávez’s legitimacy--a test that Chávez passed.  But according to the U.S., he is still not a legitimate leader.  It is not hard to sympathize with feelings of hatred about dictators and terrorists, but why is it that the U.S. hates so much an elected figure in a democratic country?  As author Greg Palast suggested, the Venezuela case stands as an example of the U.S. struggle against democracy.”




ALGERIA:  "Bush Administration Contests Referendum Results In Venezuela"


Large-circulation El Khabar editorialized (8/18):  “The whole world, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, agreed that the referendum which occurred in Venezuela went smoothly.  Yet the Bush administration has refused to recognize the results and has asked for a quick investigation into fraud, which does not exist except in the mind of Bush and his agents.  This position proves that the White House administration does not care about the Venezuelan people's opinion or that of any other people.  It also proves that it does not care about democracy and that what matters a lot is to overthrow anyone who is opposed to its hegemonic policy, even if those opponents are elected by their people, as is the case for President Chávez.  The propaganda war that the U.S. is lodging against the Venezuelan president reminds us of the one undertaken against Saddam Hussein and Iraq before the invasion.”




AUSTRALIA:  "Venezuela Unrest Keeps Oil On The Boil"


An editorial in the national conservative Australian asserted (8/19):  “Mr. Chávez rails against globalization, neo-liberalism and, above all, the evil U.S.  His ascendancy since 2000 is part of a wider Latin American backlash against free-market reforms that have so far failed to lift the poorest citizens out of the slums.  It goes without saying, however, that Mr. Chávez's mix of nationalism and authoritarianism has proved a false remedy, with real incomes falling and unemployment rising from 12 per cent to over 17 per cent....  Since his election in 1998, and despite an earlier reputation as a coup-maker, Mr. Chávez has observed the constitution and recognized the authority of the ballot box.  Indeed, the fact a recall referendum took place was made possible by the electoral reforms he undertook.  But while the volatility in oil markets will eventually settle, the volatility in Latin American politics looks set to run and run.”




ZAMBIA:  "Washington-Backed Electoral Campaign Defeated By People's Vote"


An editorial in the privately-owned and independent Post (Internet version 8/17):  "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's adversaries made it very clear that they would not accept the referendum result if he wins. It's only them who should win....  Those so fiercely bent on lying, slandering and conspiring against Chavez should explain why, in a country with huge economic resources - the world's fifth largest oil exporter - and an industrious and intelligent people, poverty engulfs an incredible 80 per cent of the population. This is the calamity inherited by Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution.  If Venezuela had an efficient and honest administration over the last 45 years, it could have achieved economic development similar to that of Sweden.  Actually, those that were leading that country and their backers in Washington created the conditions for the unavoidable emergence of the current revolutionary process.... The immense political and moral authority emanating from what the Bolivarian Revolution can do for the people would politically crush the reactionary forces.... Being absolutely objective, we believe that in Venezuela today, there's only one person who can lead such a complex process, and that is Hugo Chavez. His death, either intentional or accidental, would terminate that possibility and bring about chaos. We have no doubts that his adversaries, both external and domestic, will always try to have him physically removed.  It is not a secret that there has been a generous flow of funds from the United States for the electoral campaign against President Chavez. But this has been defeated by the people's vote.  Cuba is continually being used as an element in Venezuela's domestic politics; they keep trying to use Cuba to topple Chavez, an indisputable and outstanding leader and follower of Bolivar's ideas, whose actions and prestige exceed the boundaries of his homeland.  We admire Chavez's courage, his honesty and his clear understanding of the problems in today's world and the extraordinary role that Venezuela has to play in the struggles of Third World countries.  There's need to respect those who represent their people with great dignity and courage." 


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