Chavez Wins: Venezuela Loses
As I have chronicled in my blog, Venezuelan citizens knew exactly the style of government they were going to validate with their vote today. Thus, the country has accepted Chavez's blackmail, threats, and bribery. History tells us that when elections are won on such principles the end result is never good.
Which leaves us to ask: what's next for Venezuela? There is reason for fear.
Chavez already controls all branches of power in the state, including a docile judiciary that only produces decisions that favor his policies or politics.
With this latest victory his narcissistic personality will believe that the country has definitively embraced him. And he might be right. The immediate consequences of the vote means the ongoing sabotage of the elected mayors and governors belonging to the opposition will continue apace, following a law several months ago that permits Chavez to assign his own personnel to take over the functions of elected local officials.
Freedom of expression will also continue to face danger as the most recent campaign included not-so-veiled threats against broadcast media outlets and newspapers that did not toe the line.
On the economic front, Chavez will feel freer to accelerate the takeover of the private sector and adopt other measures that will damage irreparably Venezuela's economy even as the world financial crisis impacts the country.
Economics was the reason Chavez rushed the vote in the way he did. He knows that in a few months, as his revenues are halved, a disenchanted electorate would not have given him the unlimited power of reelection he wanted.
Now he has four years to obtain complete control of all the country, apply the necessary measures to conceal economic reality, and reach the 2012 vote with an utterly weakened opposition unable to mount a challenge, gutted as it will be of all resources. Centralization is now the code word for chavismo.
There remains the slim chance that even with free rein over the country, Chavez will be unable to fulfill the unreasonable expectations that he has been promoting the last few months and the time of reckoning might come sooner than later.