Easily anticipated: referendum results and whining

It‘s true that the world has its share of dreamers. It’s also true that there are people, even if few in number, who have an unrelenting faith in miracles. But this time, the referendum in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was too much of a slam-dunk to give a chance to either dreamers or miracle-hopers.

There was little need for a crystal ball, or to have possession of a special socio-political sense. No. Sunday’s voting was not a coin flip by any stretch of the imagination even if there were just two sides to it: “no”, to keep Chavez as the head of government; or “si”, to kick him out. For many of us, the obvious went beyond the results of the referendum, and into the anticipated whining-after by the opposition… something which came true to form.

After the results were made public Monday morning, the figures stood pretty much as cloned political numbers to those Venezuela had evidenced for a decade now, with six out of ten people, those in the lower socio-economic strata, wanting a government more responsive to the plight of the poor. So for anyone to think that the referendum would yield results deviating substantially from the 60-40 split favoring Chavez, and his populist cause, would require, at the very least, a feverish imagination.

If Chavez was elected in 2000 with 60% of the vote, and the pro-government parties had garnered that same year 65% of the seats in the165-seat National Assembly, is it not obvious where the people of Venezuela stood then… and are likely to stand now? After all, people were not voting for celebrity stars who caught their fancy then, but for leaders who presumably were providing them with social, economic and political long-term choices.

Only apathy could have saved the day for Chavez’ foes… which is to say, that those whose only hope resided in that ballot would have opted to stay home. But as the percentage of eligible voters who cast ballots hit 70, 75, then 80%... the fate of the opposition was being written in India ink. The “vecinos” groups had done their jobs, and so had MVR (Fifth Republic Movement) and MAS (Movement Toward Socialism).

How can anyone picture a different result? When almost half the population lives in poverty (47%)… and income of the wealthiest 10% is 45 times the income of those at the bottom 10%... or when those holding the economic reins had purposely taken the nation into a 10% economic shrinkage in 2003, shutting down the economy with lockouts and strikes, in order to force the government to capitulate.

Whether one thinks Chavez is, or is not, the gifted leader who can bring social and economic justice to Venezuela , those in that nation’s lower socio-economic strata do favor his stay in power. Or, at the very least, they see him as an advocate for their needs, in contrast to what they view as governments in which Fedecamaras (conservative pro-business group) and other lobbying interests would promote a farther distancing between rich and poor.

Although international observers were quick to give the official tally their imprimatur, the opposition was just as quick in claiming electoral fraud. On Election Day, the opposition’s polling of those who had cast their vote- although it is not clear how extensive the polling was, had the si-vote ahead of the no’s in a 60-40 ratio, an about face of the official results. However, the opposition apparently declined to be present at an audit, which included a sample of 150 electoral tables and the respectability of the Carter Center.

One wonders…how can a nation with such wealth in economic and human resources be so ill-served by its leaders, and for so long? The oil reserves alone at just $40 per barrel provide an economic cushion in excess of $100,000 for every man, woman and chilwith such wealth in economic and human resources be so ill-served by its leaders, and for so long? The oil reserves alone at just $40 per barrel provide an economic cushion in excess of $100,000 for every man, woman and child in the nation. Nation-size enigmas… like that of Argentina.