The opposition in Venezuela is desperate once again. The country is moving toward a new kind of socialism in an entirely democratic way, and they are screaming, “Democratic Dictator! Constitutional Coup d’etat!”
Why are those in the opposition so desperate? Why are they making these absurd claims that sound like they were manufactured by boneheads in the U.S. State Department? Because they lost the last election in December of 2006 by a huge margin (63% to 37%), and this December they are likely to lose another election that will give a popular seal of approval to sweeping constitutional reforms.
What’s their real problem? The huge majority of the population still likes their President: nearly three quarters of the Venezuelan people think that President Chavez is doing a fairly good to excellent job.
Who are the opposition? Many of the spokespeople and financial backers are members of the “oligarchy,” a small upper class that controls most big business and all private media in Venezuela. They think they are supposed to be “the ruling class,” but they only have the support of between one quarter and one third of the population. They are losing the class war. No wonder the rich have always feared direct democracy.
I have attempted to construct a rough estimate of the way that the rich and poor are divided when it comes to voting. This is a totally unscientific estimate, for I know of no poll by political scientists (who are pracititioners of a very murky “science” to begin with) that tries to estimate voting behavior by income groups in Venezuela. Still, I think the following numbers can illuminate the political and social struggle that is taking place right now, and should be useful for debate and discussion.
Among the upper and middle classes
According to a study commisisioned by the Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce, the upper class and upper-middle classes (income groups A, B, C+) make up 2.4% of the population. The lower-middle class (income group C-, made up mostly of technical professionals, small business owners, and bureaucrats) comprise 18% of the population. Together these four groups at the top of the income scale represent 20% of the Venezuelan people. About 4 out of 5 of these people, or 16% of the total population, are likely to oppose Chavez; this would leave one out of five in these groups (4% of the total population) that support him.
Among the lower classes
The poor (34%) and the nearly poor (46%) make up the remaining 80% of the Venezuelan population. About 4 out of 5 people in these groups, or 64% of the total population, support Chavez. This would leave one out of five in the lower classes (16% of the total population) that oppose him.
This adds up to overwhelming support of Chavez
Chavez supporters: 4% + 64% = 68%
Chavez opponents: 16% + 16% = 32%
Opposition media, which still dominate the dissemination of news, continue purveying fears – “the communists are coming to take everything away from you” – that have little to do with the realities of daily life in Venezuela. Every large city in Venezuela has at least one right-wing opposition newspaper, and in Barquisimeto, the city of one million that is the capital of the state of Lara, it’s El Impulso. This paper devoted the entire first page of Section C on October 28, 2007 to an interview with Guillerno Zuloaga, the president of Globovision. Globovision is the all-news cable TV station that collaborated with the attempted coup against Chavez in 2002, and has continued with all-out attacks against him and his government ever since.
Guillermo Zuloaga is a the grandson of the founder of El Universal, the most influential opposition newspaper in Venezuela, and he’s also the owner of businesses and corporations outside of Venezuela. In El Impulso, Zuloaga claimed that “The reform is the greatest threat that Venezuela has had in its history” and that Chavez has a “marxist-communist vision” of the future. According to him, Chavez’s “socialism of the 21st century” is a step backward because “we’re returning to the communism of the 20th century.”
On other pages of Section C in El Impulso, other Venezuelan opposition figures expressed their displeasure with the government. On behalf of the ultra-conservative Chruch hierarchy, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino warned that if the reforms were approved and Venezuela is organized as a socialist country, “this would be going against political liberty, pluralism, and the freedom of thought.”
Yes, It’s true, now you have the proof that this is not an unbiased website. My son Ari was recently seen helping the cause of the “Si!” in Sanare by putting the message on cars and motorcycles.
First, there is Article 230, the one that’s emphasized the most, but it’s probably not so important: there are no term limits for the President. This was a measure that used to be found in the U.S. Constitution and allowed Franklin Roosevelt to be elected to four consecutive terms. In 1951, conservatives in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures were successful in passing an amendment that limits U.S. presidents to two four-year terms, but this has certainly did not lead to an increase in democracy in the United States. In recent years, countries that have democratic parliaments and no term limits, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, have decided to give multiple terms to their elected prime ministers Thatcher, Blair, and Howard. We must note, however, that they were greatly assisted in their rush toward neo-liberal, neo-conservative policies by the very undemocratic assistance of Rupert Murdoch’s media monopolies.
 Venezuelanalysis.com, November 5, 2007.
 Kiraz Janicke, “Former Venezuelan Defense Minister Baduel Denounces Constitutional Reform,”November 6th 2007