Hugo Chavez in translation

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From the Washington Post…


Ready for a Recall Vote


By Hugo Chavez

Wednesday, May 26, 2004; Page A27


CARACAS, Venezuela — For the first 24 hours of the coup d’etat that briefly overthrew my government on April 11, 2002, I expected to be executed at any moment.


The coup leaders told Venezuela and the world that I hadn’t been overthrown but rather had resigned. I expected that my captors would soon shoot me in the head and call it a suicide.


Translation*: For the first 24 hours after the uprising that briefly overthrew my government on April 11, 2002, my paranoia reached unheard of heights.


General Lucas Rincon, my most trusted officer in the armed forces and my current Interior Minister, told Venezuela and the world that I hadn’t been overthrown but rather had resigned. I expected that my captors would soon shoot me in the head and call it a suicide.



Instead, something extraordinary happened. The truth about the coup got out, and millions of Venezuelans took to the streets. Their protests emboldened the pro-democracy forces in the military to put down the brief dictatorship, led by Venezuelan business leader Pedro Carmona.


Instead, something extraordinary happened. The coup plotters blundered, refused my offer to fly to Cuba, and soon tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets, with some rioting. Their protest emboldened the pro-Chavez forces in the military who, together with the officers who first rebelled against me, ended the brief dictatorship, led by Venezuelan business leader Pedro Carmona.


The truth saved my life, and with it Venezuela’s democracy. This near-death experience changed me. I wish I could say it changed my country.


Having swept under the rug all of the uncomfortable bits from that story, I find it comforting to use it to bolster my position. But it’s true, the near-death experience changed me. I decided politics was a fight to the death, and that only the elimination of my opponents could ensure my stay in power.


The political divisions in Venezuela didn’t start with my election in 1998. My country has been socially and economically divided throughout its history. Venezuela is one of the largest oil exporting countries in the world — the fourth-largest supplier to the United States — and yet the majority of Venezuelans remain mired in poverty.


The political divisions in Venezuela didn’t start with my election in 1998. My country has been socially and economically divided throughout its history. Venezuela is one of the largest oil exporing countries in the world – the fourth largest supplier to the United States — and yet while poverty shrank dramatically from 1930 to 1979, since then living standards have fallen by half, with the period of fastest impoverishment coinciding with my administration.


What has enraged my opponents, most of whom are from the upper classes, is not Venezuela’s persistent misery and inequality but rather my efforts to dedicate a portion of our oil wealth to improving the lives of the poor. In the past six years we have doubled spending on health care and tripled the education budget. Infant mortality has fallen; life expectancy and literacy have increased.


I rationalize my authoritarian excess is by telling myself that what has enraged my opponents, (about a third of whom come from the middle and upper class, but whom I choose to mischaracterize in public as uniformly rich) is not Venezuela’s persistent misery and inequality, but rather my efforts to dedicate a portion of our oil wealth to improving their lives. In the past four years we have vastly expanded the scale of existent of government services. Infant mortality has continued to fall; life expectancy has continued to increase.



Having failed to force me from office through the 2002 coup, my opponents shut down the government oil company last year. Now they are trying to collect enough signatures to force a recall referendum on my presidency. Venezuela’s constitution — redrafted and approved by a majority of voters in 1999 — is the only constitution in the Western Hemisphere that allows for a president to be recalled.


Having failed to force me from office through the 2002 uprising, my opponents answered a calculated series of escalations on my part to shut down the government oil company last year. Now, with the leaders of that strike largely sidelined from the opposition leadership, a new group of more moderate leaders is trying to collect enough signatures to force a recall referendum on my presidency. Venezuela’s constitution – redrafted and approved by a majority of voters in 1999 – is the only constitution in the Western Hemisphere that allows for a president to be recalled.


Venezuela’s National Electoral Council — a body as independent as the Federal Election Commission in the United States — found that more than 375,000 recall petition signatures were faked and that an additional 800,000 had similar handwriting. Having been elected president twice by large majorities in less than six years, I find it more than a little ironic to be accused of behaving undemocratically by many of the same people who were involved in the illegal overthrow of my government.


Venezuela’s National Electoral Council – a body appointed by my cronies in thhe Constitutional Hall of the Supreme Tribunal, which everybody and his cat in Venezuela knows I control but which, for more than obvious reasons, need to assert is independent — found that more than 375,000 of the recall petition had technical problems, the nature of which they failed to specify, and that an additional 1.2 million had similar handwriting in the personal data, though not necessarily in the signatures. This, predictably, feeds into my persecution complex: I seem certain I can make political points by pointing out that the very people who rebelled in 2002 when I gave the army orders to clear the streets by force continue to accuse me of behaving undemocratically!


The National Electoral Council has invited representatives of the Organization of American States and the Carter Center to observe a signature verification process that will be conducted during the last four days of this month. That process will determine whether the opposition has gathered enough valid signatures to trigger a recall election, which would be held this August. To be frank, I hope that my opponents have gathered enough signatures to trigger a referendum, because I relish the opportunity to once again win the people’s mandate.




The National Electoral Council has invited representatives of the Organization of American States and the Carter Center to observe a signature verification process that will be conducted during the last four days of this month. That process will determine whether the opposition has gathered enough valid signatures to trigger a recall election, which would be held this August. To be frank, I’m half petrified by the prospect of having to face the voters, wallowing as I am in the mid-30s in the polls. This is why my cronies have conducted a series of raids, arrests, and acts of judicial intimidation against the organizers of the signature petition drive.


But it is not up to me. To underscore my commitment to the rule of law, my supporters and I have publicly and repeatedly pledged to abide by the results of that transparent process, whatever they may be. My political opponents have not made a similar commitment; some have even said they will accept only a ruling in favor of a recall vote.


But it is not up to me. To continue the sick charade of feigning a commitment to the rule of law, my supporters and I have publicly and repeatedly pledged to abide by the results of the process run by my other supporters, whatever they may be. My political opponents have not made similar commitment, deferring instead to the judgement of international observers who have repeatedly stated that the CNE’s procedures and legal standards run counter to basic standards of electoral fairness.


The Bush administration was alone in the world when it endorsed the overthrow of my government in 2002. It is my hope that this time the Bush administration will respect our republican democracy. We are counting on the international community — and all Venezuelans — to make a clear and firm commitment to respect and support the outcome of the signature verification process, no matter the result.




The Bush administration was one of the few in the world when it welcomed the announcement of my resignation as delivered by my most trusted lieutenant. It is my hope that the Bush administration will be a little more circumspect this time around and continue to voice agreement with the increasingly untenable notion that my government constitutes a republican democracy. I’m counting on the international community – and all Venezuelans – to make a clear and firm commitment to respect and support the outcome of the signature verification process as announced by my cronies at the CNE, whatever international observers might opine.



The writer is president of Venezuela.


The translator doesn’t buy a word of it.



*to honestese

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