Thursday, 19 February 2009

Democracy wins in Venezuelan referendum

A statement from the Australia–Venezuela Solidarity Network

February 17, 2009

On Sunday February 15, Venezuelans voted in a referendum to change the country’s constitution to allow elected officials to re-stand for election without restriction. Previously, Venezuela’s constitution allowed elected officials, including the president, to stand for only two terms.

With 94.2% of the votes counted, the National Electoral Council announced that the “Yes” vote had won with 6,003,584 votes (54.36%). The “No” vote received 5,040,082 votes (45.63%). Dozens of election observers from international bodies such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States verified that the referendum was free and fair.

The constitutional change allows Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez Frias to stand for re-election in 2012. At a media conference soon after the results were released, the US-backed right-wing opposition – which had run a campaign of lies, intimidation and violence in the lead-up to the vote - reluctantly accepted the outcome.

The victory of the “Yes” vote bolsters support for the newly formed United Socialist Party of Venezuela, which played a central role in the “Yes” campaign, and for measures towards establishing Venezuelan sovereignty and social justice. This assertion of the right of Venezuelans to elect whoever they choose to govern the country is also an assertion of the majority of Venezuelans’ desire for the Bolivarian revolution, currently symbolized and led by Chavez, to continue.

Soon after the results where announced, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans gathered in the streets of central Caracas and outside the “Balcony of the People” at the Miraflores Presidential Palace to hear Chavez speak and join the celebrations.

“This victory belongs to all the Latin American peoples, it is our America. It is a really historic victory”, Chavez declared, adding that he had received a message from former Cuban President Fidel Castro saying that the vote “is a victory impossible to measure due to its magnitude”.

Chavez told the people, “Here I stand firm. Send me the people, as I shall obey them. I am a soldier of the people, you are my bosses.” He added: “We must dedicate ourselves to consolidating what we have achieved in the past 10 years of revolution... [this] will include revision, rectification, adjusting and strengthening the gains of the Venezuelan people... We need to strengthen the social missions and soon we will be in a better situation from 2010 to open up new horizons and new spaces.”

Chavez emphasised that the people must lead in this process: “This democracy must be more and more revolutionary, authentic, participative and popular.”

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network congratulates the people and government of Venezuela on this victory for democracy, and reaffirms our solidarity with the struggles for sovereignty, justice and socialism of the 21st century that the referendum result has mandated.

Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network

PO Box 5421 CC, Melbourne 3001

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