Sunday, February 14, 2010

Martha Colmenares on the Futility of the Vote in Venezuela


I am going to post a translation of an article written by Martha Colmenares for Diario de América last year following Venezuela's second national referendum on extending the term limit for the office of President, which Hugo Chavez called by executive decree, after losing an earlier vote by a significant margin.  The "official results"--i.e. "the lie"--of the vote were reported as a Chavez victory, supposedly giving him a one million vote margin along with the option of continuing his presidential mandate indefinitely, which is where things now stand.  Obviously I do not believe the vote was as announced, but that is another story altogether, part of which will be told in this blog entry.

Before I get to the translation I want to offer an apology to Martha for my incorrect use of the term Ni-Nis, roughly translated as "neither-nors," as one that applies to all electoral abstentionists, which I used in my post of yesterday, as well as in comments I made within a forum discussion on her web site.  Martha has corrected me, pointing out that the term really applies most of all to the apathetic within Venezuelan political life who will not vote for either Chavez or his opposition.  Martha would be much better described as a willful abstentionist who seeks other means to bring about change in Venezuela.  Though I adopted the usage of the term from others, that is no excuse.  Martha is one of the most dedicated bloggers anywhere when it comes to the issues affecting human freedom and democracy and she deserves to be treated with genuine deference for all she has done.

As a gesture of my sincere respect, and indeed admiration, for Martha and her work I have decided to translate an article which states her own view of the futility of Venezuelan politics in very clear terms.  I think everyone will be able to see that there is a solid foundation of evidence to prove that the electoral system under Chavez has been corrupted totally, I know I am convinced, and whatever one's outlook may be on the path to hopeful change, dealing with the electoral hurdle is a most significant problem.

Martha's answer to the obvious question of how Chavez can be confronted successfully and Venezuela reformed for the better is Mass Civil Disobedience.  I certainly do not argue with the proposal, though I do not see it as antithetical to electoral political activism.  And I especially should mention that when the moment comes for Chavez to go, I do not expect it will be as the consequence of an election result all by itself.  No; Chavez will have to be forced out in one way or another, I just believe that the electoral process must be part of the mix of the witches brew that will have to be concocted to make him leave.

I will let Martha tell her story in a way English-language readers can understand.  And with everything I know about her I want to take this moment to say that I know the story she tells is the truth.  You can believe Martha Colmenares.

Chavez's Rigged Election Was Announced
February 17, 2009

Illegally, the official vote counts do not reflect real votes, and the regime does not even have to reveal the official results.

By Martha Colmenares

Introduction: Chavez's grand strategy is to continue balancing the appearance of democracy with the reality of totalitarianism.

The main thing is that in a country where there is no law, whether one votes or not does not matter. The reason why it does not matter is very clear: The regime says what the results of the voting are and its word is final, as happened in the referendum last December 2, 2007, so that one has every reason to believe that the amendment's rejection was overwhelming, nevertheless, the regime also stated that the decision was almost a tie, and there left the matter to rest, and there was no legal recourse to know the official results, which certainly have little to do with the actual results.

This says that, without legal restraints, the official vote counts do not reflect actual votes, and the regime does not even have to reveal the official results. It might be a first reason for understanding that whether one votes or not does not matter.

The second reason is that you can win every amendment referendum in the world, and reform still proceeds as if Chavez had won instead. There can be no forgetting that the dictator Gómez governed Venezuela, literally, from his home for decades without being president of the republic.

Chavez can put any candidate on the ballot as he pleases, including the terrorist "The Jackal", and still have himself elected President, so that he remains the boss, and everyone knows that he is the one giving orders. And if any corrective action is needed, then once again he can amend the constitution to create the office of "Head of Government", or "Head of State," "Meritorious Hero," "Lord Protector", "Ayatollah", etc., in a way in which Chavez continues being the one who gives orders.

To illustrate this nothing more is needed than to see what happened with the constitutional reform that was rejected scarcely one year ago: the regime submitted it anew, and again, there was no legal recourse to stop it.

The third reason is the farce that we are seeing today, that we voted on the same thing that was rejected one year ago. If this is the way things really were, we would have a presidential recall referendum every year as well, but as it turns out, since there is no law, the regime may submit the same referendum as many times as it wants to win it, but when it is opposed, then it is spared and it denies the right of people to decide, as happened when we rejected the consultative referendum, the recall petition signatures, re-signatures, all the damned signatures.

The fourth reason is that there was no reason to pay attention to the call of those who showed up to vote NO on that occasion, because those people are the same ones who time and again were called upon for a vote against the regime and then left it to steal the election.

Chavez's grand strategy is to continue balancing the appearance of democracy with the reality of totalitarianism. That is, one must recognize that Chavez has been very competent in maintaining the balance by allowing a little bit of criticism within the mass media to maintain the appearance of freedom of expression as he goes about censoring that criticism, keeping it at a "simmer"; while today, he has already shut down Radio Caracas's public signal, bought those of Venevisión, and by terrorizing journalists, newspapers, radio and television stations, he has created a climate of self-censorship that is steadily becoming more effective in silencing criticism altogether.

When a naive person from afar asks: "But if Chavez is another gorilla, where are the thousands of disappeared or incarcerated journalists?", and there is no response, then that naive person becomes bored and no longer believes that there is a tyranny.

The same thing is done with elections. Another balancing act, on the one hand creating the appearance of democracy, while on the other, through the use of official advantadge (i.e., using all the nation's resources to promote his candidates), through the biased application of laws, vote fraud, and by reholding elections he loses (which by the way, as he did last year, Chavez at times accepts a defeat here, as in government office X, or there, as in referendum Y), gaining the appearance of having his agenda approved by democratic elections.

The farce is sufficiently well done so that both the dumb as well as the vivacious (those who get the most from Chavez) gain from the world they created, with each new election bringing another turn of the nut of totalitarianism.

It bothers me that most of those who call themselves opponents of the Chavez regime resign themselves to playing his balancing game, to me it is very clear that in this manner they do not achieve anything more than giving him the legitimacy he needs to put an end to the awakening of the world community who would be the only ones who could put the brakes on him, giving shelter to the defenders of democracy in Venezuela and denying him international support for his regime.

The reason why there are politicians in Venezuela still calling people out to vote is easy to explain: To legitimize the regime in elections means that the regime has to concede just a small share of its power to them, and that is what politicians calling people out to vote are seeking.

As we have seen, it matters little whether or not people elect an opponent of Chavez, because if they elect a Chavista, the one they choose steals what is dear to people, and if they choose an anti-Chavista, then the Chavez regime takes away resources and designated authority (as is happening with the recently elected governors and mayors) only to give those resources and powers to their own followers so that they in turn become the ones who do the stealing. Therefore I say that the people are screwed every which way.

Indeed, it seems appropriate to clarify that although Chavez has been competent in maintaining the critical balance, he has stumbled more than once, including in April 2002, which, we remember, was because Chávez needed to purge the oil industry of qualified personnel to fill it with his most loyal supporters, and then, he created that huge provocation by humiliating and insulting its managers so as to force his opposition to reveal itself in protests; the problem is that the provocation was so great that the protest literally spun out of control and he lost the presidency when he ordered the killing of some of the two million protesters demanding his resignation and was disobeyed.

Which brings me to the last part of this introductory reflection, the manner of defending democracy in Venezuela is not voting, because in that way what can be achieved at the ballot box (if anything!) is lost a little at a time indirectly legitimizing the Chavez regime which does exactly the opposite of what was won at the polls; but rather by DISOBEYING. The regime must be disobeyed in every way possible; but before doing so, we must organize ourselves so that everyone acts at the same time.

What happened this past February 15th, 2009 in the process of voting on the term limit amendment?

In a shameless use of official advantadge, motorized gangs intimidated the citizenry starting at dawn, up to the point where Chavista bands injured people with baseball bats and chains. It happened the day before and the leadership of the CNE turned a blind eye. Of course that went unpunished. So be it, the proclamation of victory went out on the state channel with that of Chavez's own PSUV party, when it was prohibited, as ordered by the man himself, so that they would close any media outlet that issued anticipated results.

How could they know the results as early as 4 pm? Clearly, that is why they lengthened the process two more hours, when voting hurriedly was not justified. At 4 p.m. the "No" votes exceeded the "Yes" by more than 10.5% and they then nailed it down, using WI-Fi communications between 4 and 6 p.m.; the Chavistas were supposedly celebrating their victory already at 4 p.m.

A pro-Chavez governor voted twice, tore up ballots, committed electoral crimes and nothing was done, on the other hand the student leadership was raided by state security forces according to some five witness affidavits.

Chavez used the daily television channels to insult us, everything that gave him pleasure, he told us he was going to grind us up dozens of times. What does this mean? That Chavez was bragging about his rigged election.

Rigging the electoral registry, the disaster of the voting machines and, is there anything here that Chavez does not own? The Supreme Court, National Assembly, electoral office, militias, army, public ministry, money, oil, everything, everything. No one wins against all this.

In case this is not shameful enough, what about the statements of the "opposition leadership" which legitimized or are legitimizing an electoral office that is controlled by Chavez? They even went so far as to cheerfully recognize the results of five million for the opposition to six for the Chavistas.

In conclusion, I am ashamed of this "opposition leadership" (which does not represent me) that tries to ignore what can only be called ongoing electoral fraud, and in its place goes on speaking such nonsense as "if they lost it was because of electoral abstention" and speaking poorly of the abstentionists and telling I do not know how many more fairy tales ...

This is a perspective worth knowing.




firepigette said...

Excellent Martha!

I must say that I agree 100 % with Martha's ideas except for the following:

I don't think Venezuelans are up to a persistent fight.Most think that elections are their only hope.Folks are afraid.They think the students are brave but fool- hearty to risk their lives.

My daughter informs me that in the barrios of Baruta people are speaking out strongly against Chavez while Chavistas stay quiet, unlike some years ago when it used to be the opposite.

Although Chavez is expanding his control more and more over the media, common people are now unafraid to complain, but going as far as persistent action would be a another ballgame entirely.

I think the opposition needs to campaign in a way that moves people's emotions more because it is through powerful emotion that people can recover their courage and conviction.People lose self esteem through irrational experience not through rational ideas and recover it through the same irrationality.

StJacques said...

So Chavez is losing support in the barrios huh? I thought as much.

My own personal theory about Chavez's move to close RCTV was that he needed a larger "cover story" to distract attention from his decision to close over 150 radio stations across the country as well. As I understand it, many of Venezuela's lower classes either do not have TVs or even if they do, still rely upon radio for so much of their media content. If Chavez were getting in trouble there, the radio broadcasts would be much more important.

It would also help to explain "Suddenly Chavez" (De Repente Chavez), which are his unannounced radio broadcasts.

I really do believe the man is in serious political trouble. Every little bit of information I get says the same thing.

Thanks firepigette.



robbie said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


firepigette said...

Although many people in the barrios have access to TV, they tend to use it more for watching soap operas than news.Radios are used even more.

I heard that some of the opinion programs of RCTV that was just shut down, are going to be transferred to their radio station( RCR) which has a lot of penetration in the barrios.

StJacques said...

And just how long is it going to take before Chavez shuts down RCR as well?

I give him six months tops. As the parliamentary elections approach we will hear Hugo shouting about la desestabilización del país, which of course will only represent the destabilization of his regime, and he will close it.

One more strike coming. Cue the umpire!



firepigette said...

"and he will close it."

St Jacques you are certainly right.
He does things in stages so that people get used to the process ,which of course facilitates the process of people living in denial.

Also radio messages are processed mostly through hearing, whereas TV is more powerful because it adds the visual impact.

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