As Venezuela's October 7 presidential elections approach, polls are showing a clear, large victory for President Hugo Chavez, with a 13%-28% lead.
The socialist incumbent — who has survived a US coup and other attempts to overthrow his government — is campaigning on a detailed platform to deepen the social changes that are redistributing wealth and political power to the poor majority. His right-wing opponent, Henri Capriles Radonski, supports privatising state industry and cutting social spending.
Despite some allegations from the US-funded opposition to the Chavez government, and the Bolivarian revolution it is leading, about the reliablity of Venezuela's electoral system, former US President Jimmy Carter has declared that Venezuela’s electoral system is the best in the world.
Venezuelanalysis.com said on September 21 that Carter, the head of the Carter Center foundation that will monitor the elections, said: “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”
Although both Chavez and Capriles have signed an agreement to honour the election results, Venezuelanalysis.com said some pro-Chavez sources feared the opposition was planning to claim fraud.
The Venezuelan revolution is part of a challenge across Latin America to US domination and corporate power. It is no surprise the US continues to seek ways to undermine, and defeat, the mass movement pushing changes forward. Below, Lee Brown from the British-based Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, reports on a former US ambassador to Venezuela calling for intervention if Chavez wins the elections.
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In an extraordinary paper released in September, former US ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, outlined a range of military, financial and diplomatic measures that the US should be prepared to take against the Chavez government after the October 7 elections.
In the paper, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, Duddy’s recommendations include that in the event of “an outbreak of violence and/or interruption of democracy” the US should use various means to “to communicate to the Venezuelan military leadership that they are obliged to uphold their constitution, respect human rights, and protect their country's democratic tradition” and “organize a coalition of partners to limit an illegitimate Venezuelan administration's access to government assets held abroad as well as to the international financial system”.
The former ambassador was expelled from Venezuela in 2008 after the Chavez government cited a US-supported plot by military officers to topple it. Having initially served under George Bush, Duddy returned to Venezuela at the start of Barack Obama’s term of office.
In the paper, he outlines an even wider list of options that the US may engage in. These include that the US “could demand that the Organisation of American States declare Venezuela in breach of its obligations as a signatory of the Inter-American Democratic Charter”.
It could also “bring the issue of Venezuelan democracy to the United Nations Security Council” or “freeze individual bank accounts of key figures involved or responsible and seize assets in the United States”.
Duddy suggested the US “could also arrange for the proceeds of Venezuelan government–owned corporate entities to be held in escrow accounts until democracy is restored [and] … block access to [Venezuelan government owned] CITGO's refining facilities in the United States and consider prohibiting [Venezuelan state] oil sales to the United States”.
Duddy dresses these up as options for the US to take “in the event that the government either orchestrates or takes advantage of a violent popular reaction to Chavez's defeat … to suspend civil liberties and govern under a renewable state of exception”.
However, there are obvious concerns that this fits neatly with the objectives of those inside the right-wing opposition in Venezuela who are planning for the non-recognition of the coming elections if, as expected, Hugo Chavez wins.
With polls showing strong leads for Chavez, a campaign is already under way by sections of the right-wing opposition coalition to present any electoral defeat as being down to Chavez-led fraud.
This has involved baseless attacks on the independent National Electoral Council (CNE), which has overseen all of Venezuela's elections described as free and fair by a range of international observers.
The opposition has announced plans to place tens of thousands of “witnesses” at polling stations on election day and then, illegally, to release its own results before the official results in a clear bid to discredit them. These plans have sharpened fears that opposition-led disruptions and destabilisation will follow their defeat.
This could easily meet Duddy’s condition of “an outbreak of violence and/or interruption of democracy”.
The paper raises the spectre that, as with the US-backed coup in 2002, the US could seek to blame any right-wing opposition-led post election disruption on the Chavez government. The US could then take the measures Duddy suggests.
The “options” suggested by Duddy, a former Bush-era deputy assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, form part of ongoing hostilities to the democratically elected Chavez government from neo-cons in Washington.
Connie Mack, chairperson of the US House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, has openly advocated that Venezuela is added to the US lists of states that sponsor terrorism.
This year, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney attacked Venezuela, during his presidential campaign, as a threat to national security. He accused Venezuela of “spreading dictatorships and tyranny throughout Latin America”.
Solidarity in defence of the right of the people to choose their own government free from outside intervention clearly remains vital.