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15-04-13 Will Chávez Revolution Continue in Venezuela? A Debate After Maduro’s Close Election Victory

15-04-13 Will Chávez Revolution Continue in Venezuela? A Debate After Maduro’s Close Election Victory

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Published by William J Greenberg
Hugo Chávez’s former foreign minister and vice president, Nicolás Maduro, narrowly won Sunday’s election to fill out the remainder of Chávez’s term following his death from cancer last month. The National Electoral Council of Venezuela says Maduro received 50.7 percent of the vote, besting opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski’s 49.1 percent. The race was far closer than the contest in October when Chávez beat Capriles by 11 percentage points. We host a debate between Rory Carroll, author of "Comandante: Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela," and Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Hugo Chávez’s former foreign minister and vice president, Nicolás Maduro, narrowly won Sunday’s election to fill out the remainder of Chávez’s term following his death from cancer last month. The National Electoral Council of Venezuela says Maduro received 50.7 percent of the vote, besting opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski’s 49.1 percent. The race was far closer than the contest in October when Chávez beat Capriles by 11 percentage points. We host a debate between Rory Carroll, author of "Comandante: Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela," and Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

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Published by: William J Greenberg on Apr 15, 2013
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Display full versionMONDAY, APRIL 15, 2013
Will Chávez Revolution Continue in Venezuela? A Debate After Maduro’sClose Election Victory
Hugo Chávez’s former foreign minister and vice president, Nicolás Maduro, narrowlywon Sunday’s election to fill out the remainder of Chávez’s term following his deathfrom cancer last month. The National Electoral Council of Venezuela says Maduroreceived 50.7 percent of the vote, besting opposition leader Henrique CaprilesRadonski’s 49.1 percent. The race was far closer than the contest in October whenChávez beat Capriles by 11 percentage points. We host a debate between RoryCarroll, author of "Comandante: Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela," and Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. [includes rush transcript]
TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN:
We begin in Venezuela, where Nicolás Maduro has narrowly wonSunday’s election to choose a replacement for Chávez, who died of cancer lastmonth. Maduro had served as vice president and foreign minister under PresidentHugo Chávez. The National Electoral Council said Maduro received 50.7 percent of the vote, Henrique Capriles Radonski won 49.1 percent. The vote was far closerthan one in October when Chávez beat Capriles by 11 percentage points.In his victory speech, Maduro, a former bus driver, said a new era for the Bolivarianrevolution is beginning.
PRESIDENT-ELECT NICOLÁS MADURO:
[translated] Long live Chávez! Long liveChávez! Long live Chávez! Until victory forever, let’s go to the streets to defend thisvictory, to defend the triumph, in peace and in order to celebrate with the peopleand to remember that we have complied with the commander. Chávez, I swear toyou, we have fulfilled your promise for independence and a socialist fatherland.
AMY GOODMAN:
Sunday’s vote was the closest presidential election in Venezuelasince 1968. Capriles, the governor of the state of Miranda, is refusing to concededefeat and has demanded a recount.
HENRIQUE CAPRILES RADONSKI:
[translated] I want to say to the government’scandidate, the loser today is you. And I say that firmly. You are the loser, you andyour government. I say that with firmness and with all the compromise andtransparency. We will not recognize the results until each and every Venezuelanvote, one by one, has been counted. We demand here that the National ElectoralCouncil open all of the boxes and that each Venezuelan vote be counted.
 
AMY GOODMAN:
On Sunday, Venezuelan voters talked about the significance of the election to pick a successor to the late Hugo Chávez.
DANIEL TORRES:
[translated] Without a doubt, this is an act that will leave arelevant mark in our history. But it is forming the start of another era, an era 14years before, and we’ll have to wait and see what will happen in the 14 years after.
RONNIE GONZALEZ:
[translated] I am here early in hopes of improving thesituation. I am anxious to execute my right and try to implement the change to thesituation that has been agitating all Venezuelans.
MARIA RODRIGUEZ:
[translated] Now, with Maduro, we also have to carry out thetasks he gives us, and, God willing, we hope this president will carry on with whatthe past president left behind.
AMY GOODMAN:
To talk about the election and the state of Venezuela after thedeath of Chávez, we’re joined by two guests.Rory Carroll is author of 
Comandante: Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela
. He was
TheGuardian
's Latin America correspondent and was based in Caracas until last year.He's now the U.S. West Coast correspondent for
The Guardian
, based in LosAngeles.Mark Weisbrot joins us from Washington, D.C., an economist and co-director of theCenter for Economic and Policy Research.Mark, let’s begin with you. Can you talk about the significance of what took placeyesterday, the election of Nicolás Maduro?
MARK WEISBROT:
Well, I think it is—you know, the majority, at least, did vote forcontinuity, and I think they did so mainly because there was a large increase inliving standards for people over the past 14 years, you know? If you take the pointwhere the government got control over the oil industry, since then—because theycouldn’t really do anything before that—since then, the poverty was reduced by 50percent, extreme poverty by 70 percent. You had millions of people got access tofree healthcare for the first time. Unemployment was 14-and-a-half percent whenChávez took office; it was 8 percent last year. So, big increases in employment andliving standards. And I think, you know, that’s why they voted for.I think also it was very lucky for the country that the Chávez governmentestablished this really secure electoral system. Now, you can see Capriles is—he’skind of playing to the part of the opposition that in every election has not wanted toaccept the results. Every election since 2004, there’s been a part of the oppositionthat just says, you know, "We don’t buy it." But he’s not really going to do anything,I don’t think, because it’s very easy to have an audit. The system they have, JimmyCarter called it the best in the world, and it really is quite good. I mean, they havetwo records of every vote. You push a touch screen: You have an electronic record.
 
And then you have a receipt that goes in the ballot box. And all you have to do iscompare those. And they will do that. And I’m sure it won’t change the result,because the margin is still large enough. It’s around 275,000 votes. So, it’s good—it’s very good for the country that they have a system like that and will be able toresolve it.I think the election also has enormous significance for the region. That’s why youalready saw the congratulations coming in, you know, from Argentina, fromEcuador. And all of the governments, I think, will, you know, stand behind if there’sany conflict over it. They’ll stand behind the government of Venezuela.And, of course, on the other side is the United States, and I think that’s somethingthat your viewers and listeners should really understand, is that whenever we talkabout Venezuela here in the United States, you know, there’s really only tworeasons you have as much news—and all of it’s bad—about Venezuela. One is thatVenezuela is the primary target for regime change from the United Statesgovernment, has been since the coup that the U.S. was involved in in 2002, youknow, the primary target in the world probably, with the possible exception of Iran.And secondly, it has the largest oil reserves in the world. And those two things of course are related.And that’s going to continue to shape relations with the United States. The UnitedStates is not really going to change its policy in the foreseeable future. They’ll stillbe trying to get rid of this government and really any target of opportunity theyhave among the left governments in South America. You know, you can see whathappened in Paraguay last year, for example. There’s a nicearticlein
The Nation
byNatalia Viana showing that the USAID supported the coup there. And you hadHonduras. You know, President Zelaya was on your show saying that the U.S. wasinvolved in that coup in 2009. So, there’s always going to—the U.S. stepped upfunding after the coup in 2002 to Venezuela, and I think they’ll continue to be activethere.
AMY GOODMAN:
Rory Carroll, you wrote
Comandante: Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela
. Your assessment of the significance of the election in Venezuela, and your responseto economist Mark Weisbrot?
RORY CARROLL:
Hi. Good morning, Amy. Good morning, Mark.I think the significance of the result was written on the faces of the people, of theministers behind Nicolás Maduro on the balcony last night. I mean, they wereextremely somber, and they were shaken. I mean, this is not a good result forNicolás Maduro or Chavismo, although they have won, and very, very narrowly. Andit’s shockingly narrow. And the opinion polls and they themselves have beensuggesting a sweeping double-digit victory. And the fact that they’ve just squeakedin is a major blow to his authority, his authority in terms of just the countrynationally. It shows just how polarized the country is: It’s a 50-50 nation now. And

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