VIO News Blog

February 12, 2009

Chavez Supporters Encourage Voter Turnout in Referendum

Encouraging voter turnout is the top focus of campaigning among Chavez supporters, according the BBC today. One volunteers said: “Many claim victory too early and don’t actually go out to vote. …Our job is to mobilise people and show them the importance of this referendum for our revolution.” While pro-Chavez campaigners go door-to-door, the BBC reports that the “no” campaign has relied on TV commercials on private channels, emails, text messages, and distributing pamphlets in the street.

President Chavez spoke of an attempted coup yesterday, but stressed that “The country must remain calm. It has a government that is alert and a good guardian and capable of stopping this outrage.” Bloomberg reports that Chavez said some soldiers were arrested and weapons seized.

The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal report on municipal politics in Caracas. Both report on claims made by the city’s municipal mayor, Antonio Ledezma, whom the Journal points out is “a member of the [pre-Chavez] political elite” and had the same job 17 years ago, back when mayors were presidential appointees. Ledezma accuses the Chavez government of funding citizen groups to intimidate the opposition, a position he used to justify firing several thousand city workers others say were legitimate.

A number of false claims about the Chavez government have been made in the lead-up to the national referendum on Sunday, the worst perhaps being allegations of anti-Semitism that were spread again today by the Washington Post. An editorial wrongly states that the Chavez government has found a “new enemy” in the country’s Jewish community, when in fact concrete steps have been taken to clarify and improve relations with Jews. The Post conveniently forgets that Chavez recently signed a declaration against anti-Semitism and twice arranged meetings with Jewish leaders. Not long ago, he said the country’s Jewish community “is a big part of the Venezuelan family.”

Also ahead of Sunday’s referendum, USA Today offers a laundry list of problems in Venezuela, trumping up fears of an economic crisis that certainly is not unique to that country. Meanwhile, a Washington Times opinion piece weighs in with characteristic inaccuracy, claiming that Venezuela will become a dictatorship if the majority of voters approve the amendment to allow holders of public office to run for reelection more than once. It also claims fraud will occur, though all electoral observers agree that it never has under Chavez. Regular free and fair elections will continue to occur regardless of the referendum result.

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