Sexta-feira, 3 de Setembro de 2010

The illusion of change in Venezuela

By Pedro Seabra

 

On September 26 Venezuelans will cast their votes in parliamentary elections for all 165 seats in the National Assembly. Given the current weakened economic situation and the growing outcry against Hugo Chávez’s latest political and economic choices, the local opposition is actively mobilizing and campaigning, seeking to present a credible and viable alternative to the Bolivarian Socialism apparatus.

Indeed, unlike in 2005 – when the opposition boycotted the electoral process – the mood appears ripe for change, especially if we take into account the political weight of the underprivileged masses, disenchanted with 11 years of Chávez’s rule, after being continuously confronted with high inflation rates and threatening crime rates. Even recent polls seem to reflect a consistent decline in the regime’s popularity.

But such enthusiasm and optimism must be balanced with a serious dose of realism. As Francisco Toro points out, Venezuelan biased-National Electoral Council is already pushing for bureaucratic obstacles that could deeply influence any electoral result, a clear advantage for Chávez’s allies. Even more, this apparent over-confidence in significant political developments appears to grossly ignore the still-powerful appeal of Chávez’s charisma and promises to his own base supporters, who have – unexpectedly, for many critics and observers – propelled and sustained his rule against all odds for more than a decade.

If anything, these elections will symbolize renewed confidence in the opposition’s capacity to present a unified front to the established forces, choosing to challenge Chávez in the ballots rather than by political omission. But ultimately, any concrete change in Venezuela is unlikely to occur anytime soon.

 

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