In a bit of good news, the voters of Venezuela have rejected Hugo Chávez’s attempt to amend Venezuela’s Constitution to allow him to stay in office beyond 2012. The official tally has the amendment losing by 2%—although some sources indicate that the actual margin was considerably larger.
Chávez has been trying to make himself into another Castro—a “President for life” with plenary powers over everything in Venezuela. Thankfully, he isn’t strong enough to do that without moving directly against the Venezuelan army and people, who aren’t about to let him seize power. So, Chávez has had to try and democratically take more and more power. This defeat signals that his plans aren’t working, and his attempt to create another Cuban-style “socialist” state are failing.
TigerHawk asks whether Spanish King Juan Carlos didn’t help in putting Chávez down a peg. At a recent meeting in Chile, Chávez went on a rant, which prompted the monarch to tell him “¿Por qué no te callas?”—or “why don’t you shut up?” Adding insult to injury, King Juan Carlos used the informal form of address, which is the sort of language one would use for a child. The line has become famous throughout the Spanish-speaking world, being used in everything from mobile phone ringtones to numerous YouTube videos. By publicly scolding Chávez, King Juan Carlos essentially put him in his place, turning him from the Bolivarian Revolutionary to just another gasbag.
It’s unclear what Chávez will do now—although there’s no doubt he’ll try to hang on to power as long as possible. He’s wisely choosing not to move directly against the results of the election, but that doesn’t mean he’ll take the results lying down. As long as Hugo Chávez remains in power, Venezuelan democracy is imperiled. Thankfully, not even Chávez’s machinations have been enough to prevent the people of Venezuela from casting their votes. So long as the people have political power in that country, Chávez will be kept in check. What will be crucial is ensuing that he cannot so erode democracy as to give himself the dictatorship cloaked in Marxist rhetoric that he so fervently desires.