[Guest post by DRJ]
*Updates bumped to the top*
FINAL UPDATE 12/2/2007 @ 10:45 PM PST: The Houston Chronicle reports “Chavez suffers a stunning defeat.” The vote was 51/49 with 90% of the vote in.
UPDATE 12/2/2007 @ 9:35 PM PST: Caracas Chronicles agrees it’s official: 51% – No; 49% – Yes.
UPDATE 12/2/2007 @
10:00 9:00 PM PST: Fox News has posted this Breaking News caption: “Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Has Lost Constitutional Vote, Says Electoral Chief.”
UPDATE 12/2/2007 @ 8:50 PM PST: The Houston Chronicle’s South American Bureau reports the Venezuelan government-controlled National Electoral Council is “mysteriously mum” while opposition leaders were “all smiles and broadly hinting that their side was winning.”
UPDATE 12/2/2007 @ 8:30 PM PST: The Venezuelan Vice President concedes the reform vote is close.
UPDATE 12/2/2007 @ 8:00 PM PST: The blogger at Caracas Chronicles reports the constitutional amendments failed. Who knows at this point? Stay tuned.
UPDATE 12/2/2007 @ 7:30 PM PST: In contrast to earlier reports in which Chavez claimed the constitutional amendments had passed, the constitutional changes he supported are now reported to be too close to call:
“The result of Venezuela’s referendum on constitutional changes that would give President Hugo Chavez vast new powers was too close to call, government and opposition leaders said Sunday.
The new amendments would give Chavez more control over the armed forces, the economy, the Central Bank and national politics. They also lengthen the presidential period from six to seven years and scrap term limits, a change that the political opposition argues could allow Chavez to govern for decades to come.”
The party of
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and Russian President Vladimir Putin won elections today with over 60% of the vote.
Chavez, who has already announced his intention to run for President for life, is expected to continue moving Venezuela toward a more socialist, anti-American agenda. Putin’s more modest goal is to:
“… give him a ‘moral right’ to mould policy after he leaves the presidency next year. But he has not said what role he will take or whom he favors to succeed him as presidency.”
Chavez and Venezuela pose an interesting problem for the US. Chavez has aligned Venezuelan interests and himself with Cuba’s Castro and Iran’s Ahmadinejad. He is willing to take on the Western powers as evidenced by his claim that President Bush is “the devil” and more recently by his threat to throw Spanish companies out of Venezuela in retaliation for derogatory comments made about him by Spain’s King Juan Carlos I and former PM Aznar.
Russia may be the more powerful nation but Venezuela is much closer to home, poses a threat to area democracy, continues its military buildup, and controls significant regional oil reserves. The US has historically tried to straddle a fence that criticizes and discourages Chavez while trying not to meddle in Venezuelan politics. It’s an admirable tactic but may be doomed to failure as long as Chavez continues to paint the US as the enemy. (See pp. 31-32 at this link for a discussion of US policies and options.)
Multinational corporations like ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, StatOil, Chevron, and TotalFinaElf have dealt with Venezuela for years, only to see their interests nationalized or significantly limited during the past 2 years of the Chavez administration. These companies offered substantial financial resources and were willing to work cooperatively with the Chavez Administration to accomplish their financial goals.
There is very little the US government could offer Chavez and Venezuela in financial benefits that these companies haven’t already offered, ultimately with no success. For that reason, I doubt a diplomatic or financial solution will work. For now, however, this may be the only option the US has.