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Venezuela, Why Sign Up A Recall Election Form Against Chavez?

By Daniel Duquenal

(27.11.03) - Recall elections are interesting features that exist in some constitutions. In Venezuela we have the opportunity as of next Friday to test this novelty. The aim is to remove from office Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela since February 2 1999. That is, if the opposition manages to collect signatures from 20% of the electorate.

Reasons to remove an elected official are multiple. The motivations that drive an elector can be emotional or practical. An elector can decide that the elected official did not fulfill its mandate. Or might just decide that s/he does not like the said official.

Reasons to remove Chavez from office abound. The list is long, from the deterioration of the Venezuelan economy, the fraying of our social fabric, the rampant corruption, the forgotten promises, the weakening of National security, the unsavory friends we keep, and on and on goes the list. Elsewhere I have detailed some of these reasons.

People can also find reasons to want to maintain Chavez. After all he brought to the front the plight of the poor, a social class pretty much abandoned by Venezuela’ previous masters, content to administer a few social programs instead of doing the necessary social sacrifices to bring the poor into the fold of productive society. Chavez also showed that political change was possible, that the people could take their destiny in their hand. That he might have been the wrong horse to bet on reaching these changes is another story.

People can decide to remove Chavez from office because simply their lives today are worse than 5 years ago. Or perhaps some are doing better and want Chavez to stay. Yet, if people do not see their living standards improving they might still decide that the rhetoric of Chavez is their hope for a better future. Or people might decide that the road taken by Chavez goes nowhere fast.

But when everything is said and the catalogue of the deeds is written, there is really only two ways to go about deciding on the tenure of Hugo Chavez. Do we have a future with Chavez? Can he bring that future to our present?

After 5 years of Chavez administration we have a clear choice of future. We can move the Chavez wants us to go, knowing full well that it heads toward an authoritarian system, supposedly providing for the poor. We know that the only way to access any share of power or influence is to tie one’s lot to Chavez and stop thinking at the personal level except for collecting our reward. We know that Chavez wants a long tenure in power. We know that Chavez dreams of a South American leadership and that Venezuela is only a platform for his dreams. This has all been said by himself, discoursing some pipe dream of South American unity through an anti globalization front.

It is indeed a valid option to choose the Chavez way and accept his goals as one’s. Or we can refuse it and decide that we want a different society where the individual will be more respected and where we will not depend on the whims of a great leader. Obviously, if your choice is for a future on which you have a say, you need not read further and you just will go and stamp your signature this Friday.

However, for those that still believe in the Chavez ideals, I have a question: will Hugo Chavez be able to deliver on these ideals? The answer, I am afraid, is no.

In 5 years of a messy administration Chavez has proven his ability to destroy. But in 5 years, the only construction offered by Chavez and his followers is a constitution that is already showing signs of strain, a constitution that has often been disrespected by Chavez himself. There is no hint whatsoever in the Chavez administration history that they are able to put together programs that can work for the long term. The promises that were made to us so we would accept that constitution are still projects going nowhere. “Follow-up” is not a definition that appears in the chavista lexicon.

The question is how to build on the only legacy that Chavez can could arguably leave us: an awareness that the future of Venezuela cannot be built ignoring large chunks of the population. The Bolivarian Constitution, for all of its faults, does indeed enshrines that powerless minorities must have a voice in our decisions. We need to elect to office somebody that will be able to hear these voices, a manager competent enough to make good on our real social needs. Chavez is not that person. He might have carried the idea, but he does not carry the ability.

The decision to sign up for a Recall Election is not that difficult. Chavez offers us a model that will be unpalatable for a majority of the population no matter what. His lack of democratic and negotiating skills will make the dissenting group always a restless group, hindering real progress in Venezuela. Simply, Chavez is unable to construct efficiently his model of society, a model that could only convince its opponents as successes convince them. Chavez must go. His mission is done. Now we need a manager.



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