Monday, December 3, 2007

Chavez loses referendum

Some genuinely good news for democracy this morning, as Hugo Chávez lost a referendum that would have given him virtually unlimited powers. The vote was extremely narrow -- 51 to 49 -- but appeared boosted by the rural vote as well as university students who don't want to see their country sink into the kind of kleptocracy Cuba has become with one elite class under Batista substituted for another.

Chávez had warned if he saw evidence the US "interfered" in the vote he'd cut off oil supplies. Not a likely scenario. One, it's not just Citgo that gets its oil from Venezuela. Second, he'd get a lot of flack from OPEC which is planning to boost oil production either this week or next.

The problem was he presented his package of 69 amendments as an all or nothing deal. And some were good ideas, including extending social security benefits to more people. But that's a matter better suited for the legislature, not the supreme law of a nation-state.

And a swing of three million votes in just one year can't be understated. The threats of some to just up and leave if Chávez had won must have been the tipping point -- lose the middle or try to undermine their power (or in the worst case scenario just kill them) and you country will go down the toilet. Much like what happened in Cambodia under Pol Pot or Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe. At least there's one country in the world where people have finally woken up before it's too late.

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