Sunday, June 06, 2004

the hot news in south america is that venezuela is preparing to have a good old governator-style recall election!

the poor in venezuela love predident hugo chavez because he is progressive and actually gives a shit about the poor. the rich in venezuela hate him for the same reason. so they've taken a page from california gop's book & used it to collect some referendum signatures. on thursday, venezuela's national electoral council ruled that enough signatures had been collected for things to set in motion for a recall election.

the bush administration hates chavez too, but ironically, the gas price crisis caused by the iraq war might mean that a chavez recall could be bad for bush, according to this afp article:

"If there is another disruption to Venezuelan oil exports, the US administration would this time use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve [SPR]," said Julian Lee, an analyst at the Centre for Global Energy Studies in London.

"They would have to do that in order to make sure that there wasn't a physical shortage of oil in the United States," he said referring to the SPR, an emergency US oil stockpile.

Venezuela exports 1.34 million barrels of oil a day to the US, some 13 percent of total US crude imports, according to a March estimate by Petroleum Supply Monthly.


Lee said past political instability in Venezuela has had a dramatic effect on oil prices, citing the oil workers' strike in 2002 and early last year that he said added US$6 to the price of a barrel.

"This would have serious consequences" if repeated, he stressed. Confirmation of the recall vote and subsequent events could be "very unsettling," said Fadel Gheit, a New York-based oil analyst with the Oppenheimer Fund.

If the recall vote results are contested by either side, "you are going to see demonstrations and probably another strike which could bring oil exports down and that could push prices higher," Gheit explained.

not that long ago it was hard to imagine that bush's downfall would come before it was too late... but everything has been catching up with him in the past couple months. they desperately try to spin vague economic factors like "less new people filing for unemployment" as evidence that the economy is improving but nobody is convinced, iraq looks worse every day, & enough scandals have hit that the press can no longer turn a blind eye. now even bush's enemies threaten to take him down with them...

anyway, as the miami herald mentions, getting rid of chavez will not be easy.

The referendum will likely be a simple ballot on whether to end Chávez's presidency. Vote "Yes" to remove him, "No" to keep him. The opposition needs at least 3.7 million votes against Chávez to win the referendum, the amount he received when he was elected in 2000.

But nothing is so simple in Venezuela, a nation bitterly divided by Chávez's leftist populist rule. If Chávez were removed in a referendum before Aug. 19, a new election would be called to replace him within 30 days. It's still unclear if Chávez will be able to run as a candidate.

"It is not explicit in the constitution whether he can run again," said Pedro Nikken, a Venezuelan constitutional scholar who once sat on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. "That will have to be resolved by the Supreme Court, which is likely to say he can run again."

If Chávez does so and faces a splintered opposition, he could be swept right back into office. There are five opposition leaders who are considered front-runners to be candidates, a plethora of other names mentioned and little agreement. Some in the opposition say they may hold a straw poll or a primary to pick their leader.

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