Marta Harnecker, a Chilean-born author, intellectual and participant in Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution, spoke to Green Left Weekly's Coral Wynter and Jim McIlroy about the significance of Venezuela's December 3 elections, in which socialist incumbent Hugo Chavez faces right-wing, US-backed candidate Manuel Rosales.
"The importance of the presidential election is that it is a means of mandating the [revolutionary] project. Chavez has had difficulty in achieving this in previous years, as the process was very complicated. [In that period], we saw the military coup attempt in 2002, and its aftermath. The effect was brutal. It is difficult to understand how a country could suffer this crisis and come out of it [successfully]. The coup and the petrol boycott in 2002-2003 were a prolonged period [of upheaval].
"The next period of the government will pass beyond this … we will see the fruits [of the process so far], mainly structural. We have seen the results of the social missions, the determination of the government to resolve problems, and to look for solutions within a peaceful framework. And they have had to do it faced with a [state] apparatus that is very bureaucratic. They were obliged to go outside [the apparatus] with the missions, trying to implement a policy that was impossible to carry out with the existing state structures. I also expect the economic changes will bear fruit [in the next period].
"It is likely that the result of the election will be a defeat for the opposition, but I fear that the margin will be smaller than the president would like. This would not be good. The opposition would use this to claim that Chavez doesn't have the popular support that he used to have, and so on. I think obviously Chavez has this support. But there is a section of the opposition who know how to take advantage of the weaknesses of the process.
"If we compare the general culture of politics [in Venezuela] with Chile [during the period of left-wing President Salvador Allende], Chile was more advanced. The sectors that the opposition can win over are those who are more easily manipulated because they have a low level of politics. They are deceived because it is much easier to deceive people if you are the opposition than if you are the government — it's clearly easier to criticise. Rosales has the opportunity to exploit the weaknesses [of the process] — and there are always weaknesses.
"The triumph of Chavez is fundamental for Latin America and the world. Chavez represents the totality of the national and international [revolutionary] project today — the project of building a different world. There must be a consolidation. I think the process is moving in this direction; it is going to win, with all the repercussions this means for a long-term alternative being established in the world …"