Maduro: A needed victory
It was fundamental that Nicolas Maduro should win, and he did win. But he won with a painfully small margin and this requires examining the reasons for the falling vote for Chavism and the notable increase gained by the right. It was a victory that revealed the methodological weaknesses of the opinion polls that from both sides predicted a win on the part of the Chavist candidate. Concerning the electoral victory, the first thing to be said is that the refusal to accept it on the part of Henrique Capriles is hardly surprising. This is what is prescribed for similar cases in the procedure manual of the CIA and the State Department when they attempt to delegitimize an electoral process in a country whose government refuses to submit to the orders of the Empire. While the gap between the two was very small, this is hardly exceptional in the light of Venezuelan history: in the presidential elections of 1978 Luis Herrera Campins, the COPEI candidate won 46.6 percent of the votes against 43.4 percent for his Acción Democrática rival. The difference was 3.3 percent and the second candidate immediately recognized the rival triumph. Earlier, in 1968, another COPEI candidate, Rafael Caldero, became president with 29.1 percent of the votes, over the Acción Democrática candidate Gonzalo Barrios, who won 28.2 percent of the votes. More recently, the present authoritarian stubbornness of Capriles contrasts with the attitude of the then president Hugo Chávez in the constitutional referendum of 2007, who calmly accepted his defeat when the No vote won 50.6 percent of the votes against 49.3 percent of Yes votes for the reform that he favoured. In spite of the fact that the difference was only slightly more than one percent, Chávez immediately accepted the electoral results. This is a lesson for the enraged loser.
Close electoral results are more frequent than is often thought. In the United States, without going further, in the presidential election of November 7, 2000, the Democratic candidate Al Gore won the popular vote with 48.4 percent of the votes against the Republican George W. Bush with 47.9 percent. As one recalls, a fraudulent maneuver in the electoral college of the State of Florida -- whose governor by chance was Jeb Bush, brother of George W. -- worked the miracle of "correcting the errors" of one sector of the Florida electorate, making the ascent of Bush to the White House possible. In a word, the one who lost won, and vice versa: a striking example of popular sovereignty in U.S. democracy. In the presidential elections of 1960, John F. Kennedy, with 49.7 percent of the votes, won over Richard Nixon who obtained 49.6 percent. The difference was hardly 0.1 percent, a little more than 100.000 votes out of some 69 million, and the result was accepted without complaint. But in Venezuela things are different and the right cries "fraud" and demands a total recount, when Maduro had already agreed to undertake an audit. What is remarkable is the intolerable intrusion of the ineffable Barack Obama, who said not a word when they stole the election from Al Gore, but who found time yesterday afternoon to say, through a spokesperson, that it was "necessary" and "prudent" to have a recount given the "extremely contested" results of the Venezuelan elections. Would he accept the ruler of another country telling him what needed to be done in the face of the murky U.S. elections?
This having been said, how can we explain the loss of votes on the part of Chavism? Obviously, there is no single cause. With the illness of Chávez (June 8, 2011), Venezuela went through a period in which governmental energy was in great measure directed to facing the unprecedented challenges that this situation posed for a political experiment characterized by the unbounded activism of the Bolivarian leader and the "hyper presidentialism" of the political regime that had been established since 1998. This description bothered Chávez at first, but later he quietly admitted that it was correct. Fidel had warned him, in 2001, that he should avoid becoming "the mayor of every village". In any case, the confusion that arose from the forced inactivity of Chávez had an impact on the management of public affairs, with the worsening of existing problems, such as inflation, the stampede of the dollar, paralyzing burocratization and citizen insecurity, to mention only a few. These are problems, it must be said, to which Chávez himself had alluded several times, and in the face of which he had proposed the need for a change of direction announced in the first Council of Ministers after the electoral victory of October 7, 2012, in which the Bolivarian leader called for critique and self-criticism, calling on his collaborators to radically improve the efficiency of ministries and agencies, strengthen communal power and develop a national system of public media as unavoidable prerequisites for the building of socialism. He pointed out in his intervention that "sometimes we can fall into the illusion that by calling everything 'socialist'...we might think that with this it is done already, a done thing, that this is socialist; I changed the name, and there it is". Hence his exhortation to strengthen communal councils, to move towards the socialization of the economy, of culture and of power. He rightly said that "we must not go on inaugurating factories that are like an island in a sea of capitalism, because the sea will swallow them up." In addition to these problems of state action there were other factors that contributed to social unrest and political unease: the right and imperialism were actively working, as they had done in the Chile of Salvador Allende, to sabotage the functioning of the economy and create unrest among the population through methodologically imposed scarcity of essential products, electric blackouts, the suspicious activities of paramilitary groups spreading terror in popular areas as well as the persistent campaign of denunciation and insults against Maduro, conveyed and magnified through the enormous weight of the mass media, leading to the desertion of a large contingent of voters.
The Bolivarian Revolution faces a delicate situation, but this is far from desperate or from inducing an anguishing pessimism. The blatant intrusion of Washington reflects the urgency felt there to put an end to the Chavist nightmare "now or never," as they are aware that this situation is not permanent. In the face of this, Maduro, as president, must respond with serenity and firmness, avoiding the trap of acting precipitously against the foreseeable provocations of his enemies. It is undeniable that he faces a society that is split down the middle, where the right for the first time has the capacity to round up and mobilize, at least on election day, some fifty percent of the electorate. It is not impossible to recover dominance in this terrain, but it will depend less on the radical character of official discourse than on the depth and efficiency of concrete policies adopted by Miraflores; it will, in a word, depend on the quality of governmental conduct in order to face the problems that bother the population, a theme which Maduro sensibly broached in his speech the night before last. We should not underestimate, in this picture, the fact that until 2016 the National Assembly will have a comfortable Chavist majority (95 out of 165) and that the new president can count on the support of 20 of the 23 governors of the Bolivarian Republic. The correlation of forces then continues to show a clear predominance of Chavism, and the response of many governments in the region and outside of it -- such as China and Russia, among others -- adds some important assurance for the necessary governability and to advance the fulfillment of the political heritage of Chávez and the already-mentioned "change of direction." We are confident that the valiant Venezuelan people will rise to the occasion and to face the challenges of the present situation.
(Translated by Jordan Bishop)
--Dr. Atilio Boron, Director of the Latin American Programme of Distance Education in Social Sciences (PLED), Buenos Aires, Argentina