VIO News Blog

November 25, 2008

OAS: Peaceful, Exemplary Elections Reflect Venezuela’s Democratic Maturity

Despite the fact that Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 77 percent of governorships and 81 percent of mayorships in Sundays elections, which were deemed free and fair by observers, news reports emphasize opposition victories and persist in calling the President an “authoritarian” and “strongman.” Only Time Magazine offers a different perspective, saying “his acceptance of Sunday’s results preserved his democratic bona fides.” This sentiment was expressed by Jose Miguel Insulza (pictured here), Secretary General of the OAS, which has observed elections in Venezuela. Insulza is quoted in the Caracas newspaper El Universal, saying that the “peaceful, exemplary” elections reflected “maturity that strengthens democratic institutions.”

A Washington Post editorial today claims that President Chavez had threatened not to recognize opposition victories, which is false. In fact, he said before and during voting, “We are prepared to recognize any result.” In a speech after votes were counted, Chavez stated: “we are consulting the people, the voice of the nation. We have to acknowledge what they say… we will respect the will of the majority.”

A New York Times editorial accuses President Chavez of “authoritarianism and incompetence” and attempts to “skew the elections.” Chavez, though, has one of the highest approval ratings of any elected leader in the hemisphere, and citizens in Venezuela show rates of satisfaction with democracy that are far above average for Latin America. The Times states that the disqualification of candidates facing corruption charges ahead of elections was carried out by a “government watchdog,” when in fact it was done by elected leaders in Congress. It also claims that more than 50 percent of Venezuela’s population will now be under opposition leadership, when in fact that number is 43.5 percent. The Wall Street Journal makes the same error today.

The Miami Herald reports that President Chavez will seek a referendum to remove term limits, allowing him to run in elections again in 2012. To make this case, the paper quotes the same opposition pollster that appears in many stories today, Luis Vicente Leon of Datanalisis. The president of Datanalisis has publicly advocated the assassination of Chavez, though this does not seem to have affected its credibility in the U.S. — the firm is treated as an “independent” source by the AP, Washington Post, L.A. Times, and Christian Science Monitor.

In other news today, Venezuela and Russia will soon conduct joint military exercises. AFP reports that President Chavez said in a news conference yesterday: “They’re not a provocation but an exchange” between “two free, sovereign countries that are getting closer. We carried out maneuvers with Brazil recently, with France, with the Netherlands and now with Russia.” An official from Holland is quoted in the Christian Science Monitor is quoted as saying: “The Dutch point of view is that Venezuela is entitled … to have military exercises with befriended nations.” Mainstream media coverage today, however, suggests that this is not likely the U.S. point of view.

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