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Venezuelans Write Into History

By Alexandra Beech, veninvestor.com

(26.11.03) - If the pen is mightier than the sword, then this week’s signature drive in Venezuela could end Chavez’s immediate political career faster than any coup. Between Friday, November 28, and Monday, December 1, Venezuelans who want revoke Chavez’s mandate will sign their names all over Venezuela. A symbolic signature drive will also take place in cities all over the world.

This is the third and final effort to collect signatures. The government found ways to discard the first two signature drives, but not this one. In total, the opposition will have to collect 2.4 million valid signatures to activate the recall referendum.

Following the signature drive, the country’s electoral authorities will have 30 days to validate the signatures, and 60 days after that to organize the recall referendum against President Chavez, if the required signatures are collected.

If the opposition fails to gather enough signatures, it will have to accept defeat. Chavez will then continue as president until 2006.

Evaluating Chavez’s presidency, it is mind-boggling that most Venezuelans wouldn’t want to revoke his mandate.

Since his election in 1999, the economy has been on a downward spiral.

In 2000, the economy grew 3.2%. In 2001, the economy grew 2.7%. In 2002, it dropped 8.9%; and in 2003, the economy is estimated to plummet another 13%. Notice a pattern here?

Other troubles indicators are:

- Inflation has choked Venezuelans. In 2001, it topped 12.3%. In 2002, inflation reached 33%. In 2003, it is estimated to reach another 33%.

- Over 6,000 industries have closed.

- Over 23% of Venezuelans don’t have jobs.

- Violence has skyrocketed. Between January and August of 2003, 1,609 homicides took place in the Caracas Metropolitan area alone!!

- Venezuelans consume less food. Between January and September of 2003, food consumption dropped 19%!

- Less than 12% of the population buys toothpaste and only 8% of women can afford feminine hygiene products.

The peak of the government’s inability to govern culminated this year, when most of the country declared a national strike demanding change. The resolution of that crisis required the participation of the Organization of American States, the United Nations, the Carter Center, and the governments of the United States, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile.

Given the government’s proclivity to use tricks to get its way, it is imperative that international observers, both in and out of country, monitor the activities in the country during the next few days. Venezuelans deserve a democratic, constitutional, and electoral solution to the country’s crisis. Whether that solution means Chavez stays or Chavez goes will be determined by the petition drive. Whether that means peace in the future will be determined by its fairness.



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