The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network released the statement below on October 8.
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Three days after more than 3 million people took over the streets of Caracas in a huge show of support for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and his socialist platform, Chavez has won the October 7 Venezuelan elections with more than 55% of the vote (8.04 million votes), against right-wing opposition candidate Henrique Capriles’ 44% (6.46 million votes).
A record 81% of the 19,119,809 registered voters in Venezuela took part in the election.
Participants in the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network’s 12th brigade to Venezuela witnessed the last week of campaigning and polling day itself. They joined the mass celebrations in Caracas when the victory was announced.
Brigade co-leader Coral Wynter summed up the brigade’s observations: “This result is a huge victory for Venezuela’s majority and the Bolivarian revolution. It expresses not only the massive public support for Hugo Chavez, but the absolute determination of Venezuela’s workers, farmers, Indigenous people, women and youth to push forward towards a democratic, peaceful and just society, to build their socialism of the 21st century. The election was another inspiring example from Venezuela of what grassroots people’s power can achieve when it takes on the corrupt elite.”
The defeat of the right-wing opposition, organised through the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD), was a clear rejection by the people of the opposition’s neo-liberal austerity program.
Capriles has close ties with business leaders from Mexico to Europe, took part in the April 2002 coup against Chavez and, when elected governor of Miranda, launched a full-scale attack on the social programs at the heart of the Bolivarian revolution. On October 7, the Venezuelan people once again rejected that path.
Since Chavez was first elected in 1998, Venezuela’s democracy has been transformed and expanded, with more elections held there than nearly anywhere else in the world. In the last 14 years, Chavez has been elected and ratified in more than a dozen electoral contests, elections that have been consistently ratified by international observers as free and fair.
The high level of electoral participation in Venezuela, alongside the participatory democracy being developed in the growing network of “communal councils” across the country, put the “democracy” of most advanced Western nations to shame.
Why Chavez won
A majority of Venezuelans, and especially the poor, support Chavez because he has challenged the ruling elite within Venezuela and in the imperialist North, and delivered tangible improvements in living conditions to the people.
Under his leadership, the social missions are providing free healthcare for millions, have eradicated illiteracy and hundreds of thousands of people have gained access to the education system (for example, college enrollment has doubled). Land reform, nationalisation of industries and the development of cooperatives have begun to put economic power back into the hands of the people.
Since 2004, when the Chavez government took control of Venezuela’s oil production, unemployment has been halved, GDP per capita doubled, infant mortality halved and poverty decreased by two-thirds. By contrast, during the two decades that preceded Chavez, real income per person actually fell by 14%.
For the first time in their lives, many Venezuelans can see that direct participation in politics can result in change, that the future can lie in their own hands rather than those of corporate CEOs, politicians and media moguls.
In this presidential election, Chavez ran on a 39-page platform to deepen the Bolivarian revolution. The platform for the next six-year presidential term, which was widely discussed in popular organisations across Venezuela, details plans for a radical transition towards socialism.
United States interference
The transformations being made through the Bolivarian revolution have enraged the United States government and its Venezuelan allies in the local oligarchy, who have repeatedly attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government through a military coup, an oil lock out, economic sabotage, a recall referendum (which Chavez won by 59% to 41%), hoarding of basic products, rioting in the streets, and using Colombian paramilitaries as proxies.
The constant attempts to destabilise Venezuela’s government, delegitimise the revolution and isolate Venezuela internationally receive tens of millions of dollars every year from US bodies such as the National Endowment for Democracy, International Republican Institute and USAID. This presidential election campaign was no exception: the Obama administration set aside US$20 million to donate to the MUD’s campaign against Chavez.
The Venezuelan revolution has placed the possibility of socialism back on the table, making it “enemy number one” for the world’s major capitalist powers. They understand that the ramifications of Chavez’s and the Venezuelan people’s latest victory will flow well beyond Venezuela, strengthening the process of unity, progressive reform and revolution across Latin America. These changes are beginning to free millions more people from the economic and political domination and exploitation of the imperialist powers.
The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) sends its heartfelt congratulations to the Venezuelan people and President Chavez. We look forward to strengthening the ties of Australian-Venezuelan friendship, mutual understanding and solidarity by continuing to tell the truth about and supporting in every way we can the achievements of the Bolivarian movement.
Viva Chavez! Viva people’s power! Viva the Bolivarian revolution! US hands off Venezuela!