[News] Venezuela Survives Another Attempt at Regime Change

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Apr 23 13:37:02 EDT 2013

April 23, 2013


  Venezuela Survives Another Attempt at Regime Change


While most of the news on Venezuela in the week since the April 
14 presidential election focused on the efforts of losing candidate 
Henrique Capriles to challenge the results, there was another campaign 
based in Washington that was quite revealing.  And the two were most 
definitely related.  Without Washington's strong support -- the first 
time it had refused to recognize a Venezuelan election result --  it is 
unlikely that Capriles would have joined the hard core elements of his 
camp in pretending that the election was stolen.

Washington's efforts to de-legitimize the election mark a significant 
escalation of U.S. efforts at "regime change" in Venezuela.   Not since 
its involvement <http://southoftheborderdoc.com/declassified/> in the 
2002 military coup has the U.S. government done this much to promote 
open conflict in Venezuela.  When the White House first announced on 
Monday that a 100 percent audit of the votes was "an important, prudent 
and necessary step," this was not an effort to promote a "recount."  
They had to know that this was a form of hate speech -- telling the 
government of Venezuela what was necessary to make their elections 
legitimate.  They also had to know that it would not make such a recount 
more likely.  And this was also their quick reply to Maduro's efforts, 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/15/world/americas/venezuelans-vote-for-successor-to-chavez.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0> to 
the /New York Times/ of April 15, to reach out to the Obama 
administration for better relations through former Clinton Energy 
Secretary Bill Richardson.

But the Obama team's effort failed miserably. On Wednesday the 
government of Spain, Washington's only significant ally supporting a 
"100 percent audit" reversed 
<http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/venezuela-post-election-watch> its 
position and recognized Maduro's election.  Then the Secretary General 
of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza, backed off his prior alignment with the 
Obama administration and recognized the election result. Although some 
of the press had misreported Insulza's position as that of the OAS, in 
reality he had been representing nobody but Washington.  It was not just 
the left governments of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and 
others that had quickly congratulated Maduro on his victory.  Mexico, 
Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti and other non-left 
governments had joined them.  The Obama administration was completely 
isolated in the world.

Washington's clumsy efforts had also helped highlight the election as an 
issue of national sovereignty, something that is deeply cherished in the 
region.  "Americans should take care of their own business a little and 
let us decide our own destiny," said 
da Silva at a rally in Brazil. Of course, there were screaming ironies:  
George W. Bush "defeated" Gore in 2000, losing the popular vote and 
"winning" Florida officially by perhaps 900 votes (and quite possibly 
<http://www.pbs.org/newshour/media/media_watch/jan-june01/recount_4-3.html> it 
altogether), with no recount.

But the demand for a "recount" was farcical from the beginning.  In 
Venezuela, voters mark their choice by pressing a touch screen on a 
computer, which prints out a receipt of the vote.  The voter checks the 
receipt and deposits it in a ballot box.  When the polls close, 53 
percent of the machines are randomly selected and their results compared 
with the paper, in front of witnesses from all sides.  There were no 
reports of mismatches, so far not even from the opposition camp.  The 
opposition representative on the National Electoral Council, Vicente 
Díaz, acknowledged that he had "no doubt" that the vote count was accurate.

"No doubt" is an understatement.  My colleague David Rosnick calculated 
the probability that extending the audit to the remaining 47 percent of 
machines could change the result of the election:  about one in 25 
thousand trillion.

On Thursday night Venezuela's CNE agreed to do a complete audit of the 
remaining votes and Capriles called off his protests.  But it's not 
clear what the audit entails.  The legal vote in Venezuela is the 
machine vote (as in parts of the United States where there is electronic 
voting); the paper receipt is not a vote, and it's not clear that it 
would be possible to audit the remaining votes in the way that the first 
53 percent were audited on site.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry, affirming before Congress 
the U.S. refusal to recognize Venezuela's elections, referred to Latin 
America as the United States' "back yard."  Oops.  Well, the contempt 
was obvious anyway, no?

*/Mark Weisbrot/*/ is an economist and co-director of the Center for 
Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of 
Social Security: the Phony Crisis 

/This essay originally appeared in The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk>/

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