Chávez runs for re-election amid U.S.-backed plots and threats

With Venezuela’s Dec. 3 presidential elections approaching, progressive and revolutionary forces are mobilizing across the South American country to win Hugo Chávez a new six-year term. At the same time, they are mobilizing for Venezuela’s defense. New U.S.-backed plots against the Bolivarian revolution and Chávez are being uncovered regularly.

Supporters of President Hugo Chávez in La Guaira, Sept. 26.

Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva

The voter turnout is expected to be high. Some 16 million people are registered to vote—almost 35 percent more than during last December’s national assembly elections. Around 56,000 Venezuelans abroad will also be able to cast their ballots.

Polls in October show Chávez ahead with as much as 60 percent of the vote.

There are some two dozen candidates running for president. Chávez’s main opponent is Manuel Rosales, governor of the state of Zulia, a stronghold for anti-Chávez forces. Most of the right-wing, pro-imperialist forces are rallying behind Rosales.

In his campaign, Rosales demagogically attacks Chávez’s policy of international solidarity with Cuba, other Latin American countries and the urban poor of the United States. He also calls for closer ties with the U.S. imperialist establishment.

Under Chávez’s mandate, Venezuela’s oil has become the cornerstone of economic assistance and trade accords with countries in the Third World, to the benefit of tens of millions of people. For instance, oil is being provided to 14 Caribbean countries at 1 percent interest payable over 25 years. Recipient countries can pay for the oil with barter goods if they are unable to pay with currency.

Venezuela has offered millions of dollars worth of heating oil to poor communities in Boston, Chicago and other U.S. cities.

The Venezuelan masses have also seen their living standards rise through numerous social and development programs financed by the country’s large energy resources.

Right-wing candidate Rosales’s claims that Venezuelans are suffering ignore the over 12,000 Cuban doctors that have been providing free medical care to millions of Venezuelan people since 2003, that millions in Venezuela are beneficiaries of free nutrition programs and that illiteracy has been eliminated with the help of Cuban solidarity programs.

Despite the right wing’s desperate efforts to defeat Chávez, all indications show Chávez with the support of the majority of the people. In each of the nine referenda since his first election, more than 60 percent of the voters approved the broad social changes encompassed in the Bolivarian struggle, from a new constitution to land reform.

Huge rallies and processions of tens of thousands of supporters in the streets of Venezuela’s villages and cities show the depth of Chávez’s popularity and support for the sweeping social changes promoted in the struggle known as the Bolivarian Revolution.

On the other hand, the pro-imperialist opposition candidates and their parties have been in disarray. They are overwhelmingly discredited among the masses for their willingness to sell Venezuela out to U.S. government and corporate interests.

For example, the “umbrella” opposition group, Súmate (“join in”), poses as a non-governmental organization. It has been on the U.S. payroll to the tune of millions of dollars to try to subvert the revolutionary process. But it was incapable of successfully organizing a primary among numerous right-wing candidates in order to field a sole candidate to run against Chávez.

While the opposition is running candidates like Rosales, it is also conspiring against the revolutionary process. A plot was uncovered in which most if not all the opposition candidates might withdraw their candidacies close to the election in order to declare the elections fraudulent.

Military defense strengthens in the face of U.S. threats

Venezuela is increasingly menaced by U.S. military threats or threats by U.S. proxies like the right-wing Colombian government of Alvaro Uribe.

The latest implied threat came during a regional meeting of hemispheric defense ministers in Nicaragua that took place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld publicly stated that countries neighboring Venezuela are “concerned” about Venezuela’s military purchases and that those weapons could fall into the hands of leftist guerrillas.

Chávez responded on Venezuelan television Oct. 3, saying, “The dogs of war continue to attack us, in this case Mr. Dog,” referring to Rumsfeld.

Alluding to Uribe’s collaboration with the United States against his country, Chávez said, “The only neighboring country that has a guerrilla [movement] is Colombia, so I ask Colombia’s president, Alvaro Uribe, to say something, because your silence is revealing.

“If this dog of war is saying in Nicaragua that my neighbors are worried, I need to know, President Uribe, if you are concerned about this. It should be you who says it and not the dog of war.”

Chávez warned, “They are trying to force Venezuela to its knees, taking advantage of incidents. Some are trying to manipulate and deceive, to try to enslave Venezuela once again. The U.S. empire and its lackeys should understand, Venezuela is free and will never again become a colony of anyone.”

In the same speech, Chavez announced a strategic deal with China to acquire long-range missile-detecting radar and a missile defense system that Venezuela plans to install in early 2007.

“Venezuela is a country that must have a defensive capacity,” Chávez declared. “We are arming ourselves despite the empire’s attempt to impede us. Now we have new weapons, they are for the defense of the country.”

Threats by Bush administration representatives like Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice regarding Venezuela’s military hardly conceal the real intent of the United States: to create a pretext—no matter how flimsy or outrageous—for military attack, coup or assassination.

Speaking about plots against him, Chávez appeared on television on Sept. 28. “Plans to assassinate me? They are constant. Here in Zulia there are plans to assassinate me. A few months ago they were on the verge of carrying it out. Do you know when and where? When I was going to the east coast, to Pequiven, to El Tablazo. I even have the photo of the rifle they were going to use.

“Who was it? An ex-functionary, a police officer in Zulia state. Now he is in Colombia, they were unable to capture him. The place where the sharpshooter was going to shoot from, the plans, everything was in place.”

Venezuela’s military and popular militia buildup is the logical response to U.S. imperialist destabilization plots. The lessons of Chile 1973, when the unarmed revolution in that country was drowned in blood by a CIA-engineered coup, are not lost on Venezuela’s leadership.

Venezuela is clearly purchasing arms like the 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles from Russia, as well as helicopters and jet fighters, for reasons of self-defense. A factory to produce Kalashnikov rifles will be completed in 2009 in Venezuela, in a deal signed with Russia.

The U.S. concern is about much more than losing the control of Venezuela’s oil it once enjoyed, as important as that is. The real “threat” for Washington is Venezuela’s example to all Latin America, of providing a true alternative to the rampant exploitation that plunged 80 percent of the country’s population into misery before Chávez’s rise to office.

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