From the hills around Caracas, the poorest slum barrios, the universities, the workplaces, the people came. More than eighty per cent of all elgible Venezuelans exercising the precious right to vote, freely and fairly and in their millions for the continuation of the Venezuelan revolution.
Ask yourself this; for whom did the poorest Venezuelans vote? For whom did the hardest working Venezuelans vote? For whom did the black Venezuelans vote? For whom did indigenous Venezuelans vote? For whom did the youngest Venezuelans vote? For whom did the disabled Venezuelans vote?
And then this; for whom did the richest Venezuelans vote? For whom did those Venezuelans with the closest ties to the gold-toothed Miami emigres and the United States, or with “Israel”, vote?
When you have worked out (not too difficult) the answer to those questions you will easily understand why we shared the joy of the Venezuelan masses until the middle of last night on the streets leading to the presidential palace. From the balcony, clutching the sword of Simon Bolivar -the Liberador of Latin America, Comandante Hugo Chavez Frias addressed a crowd so vast and assembled so quickly as to take the breath away.
The doubters were many. They ranged from the absurd to the merely malignant.
The opposition camp of Henrique Capriles Radonski released “exit polls” on election day which claimed that they had comprehensively defeated President Chavez in every province in the country bar one, which they gave to Chavez by 1%!
It was the kind of disinformation routinely fed to gullible (or worse) “liberal” journalists like Britain’s Guardian newspaper and regurgitated to their readers ad nauseam in the run up to the polls. Indeed first prize for irony must go to the Guardian reporters themselves whose first paragraph after the result was announced included the words “Chavez proved his doubters wrong”. Without a word of self-criticism – themselves having been the most unremiting “doubters”.
It is a persistent problem of western foreign correspondents that they seek out the sources who look, sound and think most like them. Venezuela has proved no exception. “Anyone here who hates Chavez and speaks English?” they might as well ask.
This victory, for a president expressing in the most vivid terms, an open challenge to the neo-liberal economic consensus, and an even more vibrant challenge to the “western” camp of war, occupation, domination and interference in the sovereignty of other peoples’ countries is simply dumfounding for the US and its allies. The US government today congratulated the Venezuelan people on their election but couldn’t bring themselves to breathe the name of the man who won it. Again.
This just shouldn’t be happening – and time after time. After all, the prevailing western orthodoxy is that there is but an inch in which politics can live. That some things are simply a given. Tweedle Dee-Tweedle Dum “democracy” and the “free market” to name just two.
But the repeated victories of Hugo Chavez prove that history has not ended, as Fukuyama the neo-con guru claimed twenty years ago. That another way is possible. That the mass of the people can be engaged in politics, and that their hearts can, if captured, beat louder than the drums of despair, disillusion and dread.
For it was the joy of the Venezuelan people which we shall remember most, in the pre-election rallies, in the queues on polling day -which opening hours had to be extended to cope with the swell, and above all in the spontaneous mass celebrations occupying entire avenues leading to the Miraflores Palace within an hour of the result.
“Chavez corazon del pueblo” (Chavez is the heart of the people) they sang and sang and with a sincerity to melt the hardest most cynical of hearts.
They really meant it. Chavez really means it. That’s why some hate him so.
He is a leader not for sale, not for rent. He says what he means and he means what he says. He faces his enemies now, newly strengthened by his victory. And his allies are duly strengthened too. He is a spectre haunting the remaining US comprador in Latin America – the governments of Chile and Colombia – and any lingering hopes in Washington that this region can ever again be the US “back yard” as the Monroe doctrine once claimed it.
Hugo Chavez now towers over the progressive anti-imperialist camp in the world. We are many, they are few. The great -in the words of the Irish revolutionary James Larkin- only appear to be great as long as the rest of us are on our knees. Today, with the Comandante we stand.
[George & Gayatri]