In case you didn't hear (a very likely chance as it is a news of interest only to Castro supporters and anti-US citizens like me), Hugo Chavez lost a referendum, which would have given him unlimited terms as a president. The referendum was defeated with 51% of the voters rejecting the 69 amendments proposed by Chavez.
These amendments would have altered the Venezuelan constitution drastically. It would have included many changes that would have given the state more power over the oil reserves and the economy as a whole. But did Chavez really lose the election? Is it possible that his influence is dwindling?
Well, let us look at what Chavez is doing with the money earned. According to The Boston Globe, the president of the National Assembly's finance commission, Rodrigo Cabezas, says that PDVSA, the state-owned oil company, will generate nearly US$19 billion which would have gone for social spending in 2006. Another US$4.5 billion will be set aside for antipoverty projects, and PDVSA is depositing about $100 million a week into a discretionary presidential spending fund. 70% of Chávez’s so-called Fund for National Development is earmarked for infrastructure projects, and 25 percent for social spending, according to Cabezas. Oil revenues and royalties have yielded US$50 billion available for public spending in 2006. The government says this oil windfall is "transforming the lives of the poor".
This is what I truly call "The Government of the Poor". This government aims to transform the society as a whole. It wants to see that the money goes for public welfare and spending. And that is what the people of Venezuela want. Chavez has been elected for the second term only because his first term was according to plan.
But I guess Chavez did not see this coming. His referendum was rejected. And the way he took it was really something to be seen. He accepted the "defeat" and told that he respects the wishes of the voters. He promised that he will continue to work for the welfare of the people and told that he would gracefully step down in 2013 when his second term ends.
There is no need for the opponents of Chavez to start celebrating. A loss would have only strengthened his will further. He is back with a bang. He will continue to work for the people and like it or not, he is still the Venezuelan President and will continue to be so till 2013 - That is still 6 years ahead. In six years, the changes in the world equations will be tremendous. US will slowly go into a recession as the Asian giants China and India will continue to rise. Latin America, which is very much dominated by anti-globalist sentiments.
Chavez stands for the people. If Chavez has the power, so do his people. I agree that the critics are usually suspicious of the power going into one hand in smaller countries, but hey, isn't Mr. Bush (I hate having to add that respectful word to his name) ruling the US with a Iron hand? Isn't the freedom of the people at his mercy?
Chavez has made a smart move, albeit a bit early. He now knows that the scales are nearly even and that he needs to work out a strategy similar to that of Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh (Click here to recall what Mayawati did). He needs to appease even his dissenters. He can call another referendum later in his tenure if really needed. Afterall, if we can get another Chavez in 2013, that would really frustrate the poor American leaders!!!! It would drive them crazy!!!
So Mr. Chavez, play it cool and stick to your policies. Latin America needs leaders like you to counter anti-socialist elements like the USA.