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Victory for the Chavez Referendum May Prove to be Another Fire in the Heated Immigration Debate

LatinaLista — Today, Venezuelans are going to the polls to cast their votes regarding the changes President Chavez wants to make to his country’s Constitution.

Venezuelan referendum ballot to change country’s Constitution.
(Source: El Universal)

To the poor of the country, Chavez appears to be a savior. A very quick scan of the referendum in which changes to Venezuela’s Constitution Chavez wants to make speaks to the poor on many levels.
Yet, the real fear is that with these changes brings even greater potential for corruption and dictatorship that should have the whole Western Hemisphere asking ourselves if a new wave of immigrants will be knocking on our door, and given the current climate, what will be said?

Polls have officially closed. There have been sporadic reports of violence throughout the country at polling places resulting in one polling center being shut down.
In fact, El Nacional newspaper reports that one of their reporters was hit trying to film the violence at one poll.
Who hit her? Government officials.
Already it doesn’t look good for democracy in Venezuela — even with supposedly free elections.
Yet, to the poor and disenfranchised of Venezuela, such incidents may never be known as they focus on what changes to the Constitution will mean for them.
Among the notable changes that today’s vote would endorse are:
A 36-hour work week.
Changing the voting age from 18-years-old to 16.
Free attendance to Universities.
Yet, other changes, and ones that justifiably are causes for concern by people who can see beyond tomorrow, are:
No limits on presidential re-elections.
Allowing the President to administer foreign reserves along with the country’s Central Bank.
Allowing the President to decree any territory or geographic space to be a strategic military region for the defense of the nation.
Also, seeing the general direction Chavez is making in his foreign policy: alienating himself from Spain and Colombia, and basically declaring the US, Public Enemy #1, along with his domestic attacks against television and print media that broadcast/print what he considers unfavorable news about him, it is easy to see that Chavez is setting the stage — for himself.
That kind of political posturing has historically resulted in disenfranchising the educated and entrepreneurial of society. In fact, when examining the Constitutional changes more closely it’s eerily reminiscent of when Fidel Castro took over Cuba.
There’s no greater proof or complement of how much Chavez idolizes Fidel Castro when looking at these changes.
In fact, Chavez’ referendum vote is the 21st century version of a coup.
Let people thinking they’re voting democratically to instill change, silence opposition and media coverage of any protest, wait patiently for the count and declare yourself the winner.
If that would be the case, would it be enough cause to trigger a mass migration, from some who feel threatened by Chavez, for a more democratic territory?
Would it be cause enough for the U.S. to open its doors to welcome such an exodus?
Who knows.
What is known is that if the Chavez referendum is proclaimed a winner, things will never be the same again for Venezuela or the United States.
It’s something to think about.

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  • Mike
    December 3, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    I agree with your last line. Wholeheartedly.
    Here’s some primer for thought.
    For centuries, the wealth of Venezuela has been appropriated by people of European descent. For centuries, they had the chance to demonstrate their concern for all of the people of Venezuela. Instead, they created a two-tiered society. The economic elites lived on the coast, the brown natives served them or were left to scratch out whatever living they could on their own.
    Chavez comes along, institutes land reform and decides that all Venezuelans deserve health care and education. He begins a program of nationalizing the country’s resources and distributing the wealth amongst all the people of Venezuela.
    But it wasn’t easy. At every step, the powerful ruling class resisted and they controlled the country’s economy. The coastal elites were the bankers, the manufacturers, the management class, and yes, the owners of the major media corporations. (You see, without control of the media, it would have been much more difficult for a small invasive minority to maintain control of the natives.)
    So we had management strikes, sabotage and a coup. Complicit in the coup was a media company that licensed its spectrum from the state. The coup was brief, but telling… telling in that the United States almost immediately recognized the usurping powers.
    How the coup was handled was telling as well… there were no firing squads; I’m not even sure if there were jail sentences. The media company was allowed to keep its license for years afterward. Venezuela didn’t stop selling oil to the United States – I don’t even think they interrupted diplomatic relations.
    It may not be violent as one would suspect, but Venezuela is in the midst of a revolution. The old guard is tenacious, wily, powerful and no less willing to ignore the brown people today than they were for the previous several centuries. They see their grip slipping and, if history is to be our guide, they are willing to take extraordinary measures to restore what they’ve lost. In all seriousness, when I see pictures out of Venezuela that show young men firing weapons into crowds, I wonder: on whose behalf do they shoot? The propaganda value for the anti-Chavistas is extraordinary, but lord knows that in matters of country and revolution, passions run hot.
    Anyway, I especially take issue with one line in your post: “silence opposition and media coverage of any protest”.
    Chavez ended one television station’s right to renew its license. He hasn’t shut down newspapers, other TV stations or the radio. The media in Venezuela is not state controlled – any more than the media in the United States is state controlled (see Janet Jackson). Licenses to broadcast are required in Venezuela – just like here in the United States – but the airwaves are mostly free after that as long as they aren’t abused. That’s pretty much the same standard we have here in America.
    The truth is, it’s really, really hard to know exactly what is going on in Venezuela. I’m not positive anything I’ve said above is entirely correct or paints a complete picture. I’m not an unqualified Chavista; I think there may be ways of providing for your populace without subjecting your entire country to this turmoil. It may be possible to do it without consolidating power in the Presidency. I think Brasil is demonstrating that social change can come with less friction… And his public statements have often been spot-on, but ridiculous for a world-leader to make.
    But… I know in my gut that the United States has been working to destabilize Chavez from day one. I know in my gut that the people that had it made for hundreds of years can’t stand the thought of giving up their “birthrights”. I can think of no larger challenge than bringing reform to a country controlled for so long by such myopic and self-interested elitists. They’ve done everything they can do to undermine Chavez’ efforts. It’s little surprise that Chavez seeks more ability to counter their usurpatory machinations.
    It’s also clear to me that Chavez has the interest of his people – and all the world’s economically exploited people – as the motivating force underlying his efforts. He knows what happened to Che and Allende and labor organizers in Latin America… Yet he presses on…
    So yeah, I’m taking a wait and see approach regarding Chavez. And I’m sympathetic to the situation he finds himself in. And I hope for the best for him and the people of his country.

  • George
    December 3, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    “Yet, the real fear is that with these changes brings even greater potential for corruption and dictatorship that should have the whole Western Hemisphere asking ourselves if a new wave of immigrants will be knocking on our door, and given the current climate, what will be said?”
    It’s precisely because of this that illegal immigration from Mexico and the rest of Latin America must be stoppped now, and that a new anmnesty should be denied. A new amensty will only encourage future illegal immigration. Just as the U.S. should not feel compelled to accept the repercussions of the poor judgment of Mexican citizens in electing corrupt individuals to power, we should not allow illegal immigration from Venezuela just because they picked the wrong president and decide to abandon their own country. If Venezuela, a democracy, decides to elect a socialist who turns out to be a fascist dicator, it’s their problem. The U.S. will not bail them out.

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