from Weekly News Update on the Americas

With 79% of the votes counted on the evening of Dec. 4, the six parties supporting left-populist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias had won all 167 seats in the National Assembly in national legislative elections that day. Chavez’s own party, the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), won 114 seats, according to MVR deputy William Lara, giving it 68% of the seats, more than the two-thirds required to make constitutional amendments and to approve key appointments. Together the pro-Chavez parties received 88.8% of the vote, according to National Electoral Council (CNE) president Jorge Rodriguez. The CNE reported that voter turnout was just 25%, considerably lower than Chavez supporters had expected.

With high ratings for Chavez in opinion polls and with the main opposition parties dropping out on Nov. 29 and calling for a boycott, a victory by pro-Chavez parties had seemed assured. But the high abstention rate was a concern for the government. Preliminary statements from observers for the European Union and the Organization of American States (OAS) on Dec. 6 held that the elections were clean but that the low turnout reflected “distrust” in the CNE. Chavez himself said on Dec. 6 that the turnout “must be looked at, analyzed and considered.” “Nobody can claim the abstention as a victory,” he told supporters. (, Dec. 4, 6; AP, Dec. 6)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 11

On Nov. 29, four Venezuelan opposition parties from the “Unity” coalition announced they were pulling their candidates out of national legislative elections scheduled for Dec. 4, allegedly because the National Electoral Council (CNE) had failed to guarantee a secret ballot. On Nov. 28, the CNE had said it would not use fingerprint machines to identify voters; the previous week opposition forces demonstrated that the machines store the sequence in which votes are cast, allowing that sequence to potentially be matched against the fingerprints and destroying a guarantee of secrecy. (Miami Herald, Nov. 30)

Democratic Action (AD), a former social democratic ruling party which currently has 23 seats in the 165-seat National Assembly, was the first to announce it was boycotting the elections. The former ruling Christian Democratic party COPEI, with six seats, and the conservative Project Venezuela, with seven seats, quickly followed suit. Later on Nov. 29, the center-right party Justice First, with five seats, announced it was also pulling out.

The center-left Movement Toward Socialism, the second-largest opposition party with 11 seats in the Assembly, did not withdraw from the elections. But as of Dec. 1, the vote boycott had been joined by a dissident group of MAS candidates, as well as the Citizen Force, Cadecide, Red Flag and Democratic Left parties and 11 independent candidates. Still participating in the elections were 49 opposition candidates, of which 23 were independent and the rest were from the MAS and New Time, the party of Zulia state governor Manuel Rosales. In the current Assembly, opposition parties have a combined total of 79 seats. (MH, Nov. 30, Dec. 3; La Jornada, Mexico, Nov. 30) On Dec. 3, left-populist president Hugo Chavez Frias cited figures from the CNE that 556 candidates out of a total of more than 5,500 had pulled out of the race. (MH, Dec. 4 from AP) The ruling 5th Republic Movement (MVR) currently has 69 deputies, who together with 17 allies from minor parties hold a slim majority control of the Assembly with 52%. (MH, Dec. 4; LJ, Nov. 30)

Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel publicly welcomed the opposition parties’ withdrawal, saying they were “doing so because they have no votes,” and that it was “time for them to disappear off the map.” (MH, Nov. 30) Chavez said he was not surprised by the attitude of AD and COPEI, which alternated in ruling Venezuela between 1958 and 1988. “They were left without people after having looted and handed the country over to imperialism,” said Chavez. “What fraud?” he rhetorically asked the parties. “Accept the truth, you have no people.” (LJ, Nov. 30 from AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Chavez also accused the opposition parties of planning a conspiracy backed by the US government to disrupt the elections. (ENH, Dec. 4 from AP) On Dec. 2, Rangel confirmed that 11 people had been arrested that day in Zulia state; they are suspected of stockpiling dozens of Molotov bombs. Officials said the individuals were trying to block a road when they were caught with 31 containers of fuel, tacks, tires and false military identification cards. (ENH, Dec. 3; MH, Dec. 4 from AP) Rangel also confirmed the confiscation of 24 kilos of C-4 explosives in the central state of Guarico. (LJ, Dec. 4) A rustic homemade bomb exploded near a government legal office in Caracas on Dec. 2, causing minor injuries to a man and an adolescent, according to the attorney general’s office. Two other explosives, apparently grenades, were detonated at the Fort Tiuna military base in Caracas, seriously wounding a police officer. (ENH, AP, Dec. 4)

On Nov. 28, a delegation of six members of the US Congress and 22 congressional staff members arrived in Caracas for a visit during which they planned to meet with Venezuelan government officials and leaders from opposition groups including the “election monitoring” group Sumate, which is funded by the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Sumate issued a call for Venezuelans to abstain from voting in the Dec. 4 elections and instead go to church that day and pray for “transparency and the truth.” (MH, Nov. 30 from correspondent, Dec. 4 from AP)

But the US delegation, headed by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), chair of the House International Relations Committee, never got off the plane. Airport authorities initially refused to allow the aircraft to park near the official VIP terminal, then didn’t allow vehicles to approach the plane to pick up the passengers, according to US officials. The Venezuelan foreign ministry said in a statement that the delegation’s arrival was “delayed a few more minutes” because the VIP terminal was reserved for Spanish defense minister Jose Bono. The statement said Rangel’s office was negotiating a solution to the “inconveniences” when the US delegation decided to leave. Bono was in Caracas on Nov. 28 to sign a deal under which Venezuela is buying eight patrol ships and 12 planes from Spain. The US government opposes the deal. (MH, Nov. 30; LJ, Nov. 29)

On Dec. 2 the US State Department rejected the accusation that it was promoting the opposition’s electoral boycott. The AD and Justice First parties also denied any connection. “The democratic opposition does not have and will not have any political links with the US government or with any other government,” said AD leader and deputy Alfonso Marquina. (ENH, Dec. 3)

On Dec. 1, thousands of Chavez supporters marched through the streets of Caracas to call for participation in the elections and protest the maneuvers of the opposition parties. Marchers carried coffins with the names of the traditional parties, particularly COPEI and AD. Current National Assembly president Nicolas Maduro told the marchers that the boycotting parties “are in the service of the empire.” (LJ, Dec. 2)

Chavez’s base is meanwhile pushing him to deepen the country’s revolutionary reforms. About 10 independent left parties support Chavez but remain outside his MVR coalition. The National Network of Bolivarian Circles, which groups the pro-Chavez grassroots community groups, is urging its members to vote for some of the more radical forces, including the Communist Party. “We have to make a turn to the left, because regrettably the MVR has had the opportunity to change the direction of the process, but hasn’t done it,” said Marcos Sosa, a spokesperson for the Bolivarian Circles. (LJ, Dec. 3)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 4


Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #116

See also our last update on Venezuela:


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution