VENEZUELA: 'Megarecall' may backfire on opposition



According to the October 16, Venezuela is to face "Megarecall" on March 27 next year. On that day, there is likely to be opposition-instigated referenda on whether President Hugo Chavez and 34 other members of his government should be recalled. At the same time, there may also be referenda to recall 38 right-wing opposition mayors, governors and parliamentarians. The votes are dependent on the required signatures being gathered in the respective electorates.

The regulations regarding the recall petitions and referenda are considered favourable to the government, according to, because they minimise the chances of fraud. reported on October 17 that there will be more than 19,000 observers to supervise the process.

While the government had demanded that the National Electoral Council, the independent body that oversees elections in Venezuela, allow the opposition only one day to collect the around 2.3 million signatures required for a presidential recall, the NEC decided to give the opposition four days to collect them. The revolutionary movement will have the same amount of time to collect signatures to bring about referenda to remove opposition leaders.

According to, anti-Chavez governors and mayors are accused of using money meant for social programs to fund opposition campaigns. Many Bolivarian activists see right-wing opposition-run city and local governments as major obstacles to the fulfilment of the Chavez government's reforms.

The removal of these oligarchy-linked politicians, and their replacement with radical leaders, would help the national government's social programs be implemented on a local scale and open more space for the movements of the oppressed to struggle for their rights. While the Venezuelan capitalist class would retain control of the private mass media and much of the economy, it would lose its last remaining footholds in government.

In particular, the opposition's control of the mayorship of the capital, Caracas, is strategically important. The Caracas Metropolitan Police (PM) have been used extensively as a counter-revolutionary force to suppress the Bolivarian movement. Caracas mayor Alfredo Pena was one of the masterminds behind the April 2002 coup.

While Chavez has attempted to use the military to supervise and disarm the PM, CNN on October 10 reported that the courts have ruled this illegal because authority over the PM lies with Pena.

A victory for Chavez in a presidential recall election (should the opposition succeed in getting the required number of signatures, which is far from certain) would further validate and legitimise the revolutionary process that is unfolding in the oil-rich South American country. It would make it more difficult for hostile governments — in particular, the US government — to characterise the Bolivarian Revolution unleashed by Chavez as authoritarian and unpopular.

According to a poll published in anti-government El Mundo on October 6, conducted by the Statistical Bureau of Venezuela (BEV), a polling company run by professors at the Central University of Venezuela, 51% of those living in Caracas would vote to keep Chavez as president if a recall referendum was held; 31% would vote to revoke his mandate.

The survey covered both working-class areas, where Chavez's Fifth Republic Movement has majority support, and affluent areas where opposition parties dominate. Those surveyed were found to have a positive opinion of the social programs being implemented by the Chavez government, such as the mass literacy campaign and improved medical services for poor neighbourhoods. Both these programs operate with the assistance of the Cuban government. The opposition claims that both are designed to introduce "Cuban-style communism".

According to the survey, 61% of those living in Caracas agree that the literacy campaign is designed to eliminate illiteracy, while only 14% think it is geared towards introducing "communist ideology".

From Green Left Weekly, October 29, 2003.
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