Implications/aftermath of Venezuelan election

In yesterday’s parliamentary elections in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez’ Fifth Republic Movement won an overwhelming majority – more than 2/3 of the seats, enough to change the constitution to allow Chavez to stand for a third term next year, if they want.

OTOH, this was after the five main opposition parties decided to boycott the election. Voter turnout nationwide was only 25%. This might detract from the new legislature’s perceived legitimacy – or at least opposition groups will try to make a case for that.

Chavez had previously blamed the boycott on the Bush Administration.

So, what does this outcome mean for the future of Venezuela? And of South America generally?

Related question – did the Bush Admin really have anything to do with the opposition parties’ decision to boycott the election?

I would be tempted to dismiss the idea as just plain silly – but, given the history of the 2002 coup attempt (, I’m not so sure.

Why would the Bush administration want them to boycott, thus guaranteeing Chavez an overwhelming majority and the ability to change the constitution to stand for a third term? As for the future of South America in general, not much - aside from possibly Bolivia and Colombia. Brasil is too large to be bothered by what Chavez does. They fancy themselves, with good reason, the major player in the region so I wouldn’t expect them to help Chavez boost his own influence at the cost of their own. The situation is basically the same with Argentina, Chile, Peru and the 'Guays (except none of them consider themselves the player that Brasil does).

You may a see a boost from the left-wing Indian parties in countries with internal instabilities like Bolivia, etc. And if Venezuela actually is funding rebels in Colombia, then that will continue to be a mess, as well.

I don’t see it changing much in the region.

I don’t know what the outcome will be, but if it’s bad, the opposition will have a big responsability in it.

And if it’s good, it will be rightfully ridiculed.

Has Venezuela been accused of that?

Sort of. Uribe and the US have made some backhanded allegations about Venezuela harboring FARC troops, as well as giving them more direct support. I don’t know if you remember the row that occurred about a year ago when Colombian agents captured a FARC higher-up in Caracas. When Venezuela protested that action as a violation of its sovereignty, Uribe made comments about Venezuela being a bit too friendly and welcoming of the FARC officers during a “Bolivarian Congress” meeting. Plus, the US strenuously objected to some arms purchases by Venezuela from Russia stating that the arms could fall into some “illegal groups operating in the region.”

So, while there hasn’t been a straight up accusation, there have been lots of veiled insinuations. I, personally, don’t buy it since Colombia is a major trading partner with Venezuela and I think that Chavez is more bark than bite when it comes to talk of revolution, but there’s enough corruption in Venezuela that I could see some illicit funneling of funds/arms to FARC, although not as a matter of policy.

The calculation might have been – as it often is, when a given faction decides to boycott an election (viz., the decision of certain Sunni parties to boycott the recent Iraqi election) – that the opposition had no chance of winning anyway, so a boycott might at least preserve for them the option of challenging the “legitimacy” of the results and questioning the elected legislature’s mandate to govern (see the OP, quoting Henry Ramos Allup of Democratic Action); and the Bush Admin’s agents might have encouraged them in that thinking, even if that would not be the best thing for Venezuela’s political stability.

I would want to see some proof, but it is at least plausible as a theory.

Maybe to galvanize the opposition to overthrow Chavez.

I understand the thinking behind it, but seriously, has that ever worked? This administration has even had direct experience with an election boycott backfiring on the boycotters with the Sunnis in Iraq. Besides, organizing a boycott by the opposition doesn’t seem to fit the Bush Administration’s style.

Didn’t work the first time, why would it work the second time?