After the Referendum Venezuela Faces New Challenges

By Harnecker, Marta | Monthly Review, November 2004 | Go to article overview

After the Referendum Venezuela Faces New Challenges


Harnecker, Marta, Monthly Review


With President Hugo Chavez's victory in the August 15 referendum, the Venezuelan opposition suffered the third great defeat in its struggle to end his government. The unprecedented recall referendum ratified Chavez's presidency by a margin of two million votes and was declared valid unanimously by the hundreds of international observers who scrutinized it.

In a part of the world where democracy has been discredited by its failure to solve the problem of poverty, the result provided, in the words of one observer, Eduardo Galeano, "an injection of optimism."

The victory belongs not to a man but to the project of creating a country guided by humanism and solidarity in its domestic and international spheres. It is also a victory for a development model embracing endogenous development and the social economy as alternatives to voracious, destructive neoliberalism.

It was a victory, too, for the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela, the only constitution that permits such a recall referendum for the president.

But it was mainly a victory of the people, not only the popular organizations and the people of the poor neighborhoods but also members of the middle classes who immediately responded to the president's call by organizing themselves.

A new stage of the Bolivarian revolutionary process has begun. The opposition has been defeated in this battle, but the war has not yet been won. Before discussing this new stage and the challenges facing the revolution, it is important to put these in a historical context.

The Socioeconomic Context

Venezuela, the fifth-largest oil producer in the world, has been historically a society of great inequality. While an oligarchy enjoyed an extraordinarily high standard of living, 80 percent lived in poverty. When then-president Carlos Andres Perez proposed a package of neoliberal reforms in February 1989, a popular explosion occurred. The poor came down from the hills and attacked supermarkets. The armed forces restored order by firing on the people, killing thousands. Some poor people began to wake up.

It was clear that the neoliberal measures brought deepening poverty. Masses of peasants migrated to the cities, real wages dropped substantially, and the informal sector ballooned.

In just three years 600,000 people migrated to the cities. The campesino labor force, rural peasants and farmers, shrank by 90 percent. The proportion of workers in the informal sector rose from 34.5 percent in 1980 to 53 percent in 1999. The industrial labor sector decreased. After 1989 partial or total privatization of the telecommunication, ports, oil, steel, and airline sectors reduced employment in strategic industries and transferred ownership to foreign capital. Subcontracting and outsourcing added to the problem. Economic inequality and unemployment grew with unemployment levels reaching 15.4 percent. Real wages fell substantially, and social fragmentation worsened considerably. Multiple popular organizations were formed, but they did not achieve a national presence. Only 17 percent of the union movement remained organized, and it no longer represented the popular sectors.

The economic crisis brought with it a political crisis. Corruption reigned as skepticism about politics and politicians grew, and apathy was everywhere. There appeared to be no way out.

In this context Hugo Chavez won 56 percent of the vote in the presidential elections of December 6, 1998. The people, tired of corruption and increasingly skeptical about traditional politics, bet on a candidate who represented something new.

The former lieutenant colonel had become known in the country as leader of the Bolivarian movement in the military. The Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement, MBR 200, attempted unsuccessfully on February 4, 1992, to overthrow President Carlos Andres Perez for being corrupt and a traitor to the constitution. (1) When freed from jail two years later, Chavez began traveling the country to convince people that profound institutional change was necessary to end Venezuela's chaos, corruption, and inefficiency and to carry out the social and economic transformations that the country needed so badly. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

After the Referendum Venezuela Faces New Challenges
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.