Tuesday, June 8, 2004

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Chavez referendum update

A brief follow-up to my last post on efforts to recall Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The New York Times reports that a referendum date has been set in Venezuela for Hugo Chavez:

A recall referendum on President Hugo Chávez, whose rule has bitterly divided Venezuelans, has been scheduled for Aug. 15, electoral authorities said Tuesday night.

The president's opponents learned Thursday that they had collected enough signatures to force a referendum but had worried that with administrative or legal challenges, he could push the vote past Aug. 19, the fifth anniversary of his coming to power. According to the Constitution, a vote to recall Mr. Chávez at that point would allow his vice president to run the country and permit Mr. Chávez to run for re-election in 2006.

In a brief statement, Ezequiel Zamora, vice president of the five-member National Electoral Council, said the Aug. 15 date would permit Venezuelans to remove Mr. Chávez's administration and, within 30 days, elect a new president.

So, hurdle one -- canceling the referendum via a technicality or legal delay -- has been cleared. However, the BBC reports that Chavez will not be taking this challenge lying down: "He has already begun campaigning, warning voters of the consequences of an opposition victory."

posted by Dan on 06.08.04 at 11:04 PM


He needs the price of oil to stay or hover around $40 a barrel. If that stands than he avoids a recall. If it falls, he tumbles.

posted by: Brennan Stout on 06.08.04 at 11:04 PM [permalink]

This is big news. Arguably, the date of the referendum is more important than whether the referendum happens at all. Why? Due to an eccentricity of Venezuelan constitutional law, the date of the vote changes the outcome of an anti-Chavez vote. If the Chavez loses before August 19th, new elections will occur which will elect a new president. If the vote happens after the magic date, Chavez’s vice presidente takes over and Chavez remains in power as the man behind the curtain. Due to this ruling, the date is set for sometime in July. Polls say that Chavez will probably lose.

The real question now becomes, will the recall go off without tremendous amounts of violence? I would warn against all but the most cautious optimism.


posted by: Travis Merrigan on 06.08.04 at 11:04 PM [permalink]

There is serious concern about voting fraud. Not that voter fraud is a new concept in Venezuela (or other democracies, for that matter), but apparently the government is entertaining the idea of using an unproven e-voting system without a paper trail.

posted by: KC on 06.08.04 at 11:04 PM [permalink]

Say what you will (or you did) about Jimmy Carter in the following post, the fact that the referendum is even taking place owes a great deal to teh persistence of the Carter Center and its observers in the review of the signatures.

posted by: Randy Paul on 06.08.04 at 11:04 PM [permalink]

Last I knew, the Venezuelan military (controlled by Chavez) had stormed the offices of the Venezuelan police (not controlled by Chavez) and taken away their firearms.

In any situation where you have one armed party and one unarmed party, the potential for violence is significant.

Of course, optimistically, maybe the Venezuelan military gave the police back their .38's. That should bring some parity of force...

posted by: Will on 06.08.04 at 11:04 PM [permalink]

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