This Associated Press story is based on the outcome of the election that took place in Venezuela on December 2. The first paragraph in the story says,”President Hugo Chavez suffered a stunning defeat Monday in a referendum that would have let him run for re-election indefinitely and impose a socialist system in this major U.S. oil supplier.” What does the reporter mean by using the word “stunning” and the statement “and impose a socialist system in this major US oil supplier?” The reporter never qualifies by the term socialist and or explains what Venezuela’s supply of oil to the US have to do with that country’s outcome? It is hard to answer these questions based on the article, since the next pieces of information in the article are the vote percentages, a quote from an anti-Chavez voter, and a few comments from Chavez himself.
The rest of the story does provide readers with some aspects of the reforms that were in the referendum, although the referendum text is actually 31 pages long. The original version of the AP story had more comments from pro and anti-Chavez supporters, made reference to Chavez’s relationship with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and that “Chavez had warned opponents ahead of the vote he would not tolerate attempts to incite violence, and threatened to cut off oil exports to the U.S. if Washington interfered.” There was no mention in this AP story that there was a leaked US government memo on plans for a political coup in Venezuela.
President Hugo Chavez suffered a stunning defeat Monday in a referendum that would have let him run for re-election indefinitely and impose a socialist system in this major U.S. oil supplier.
Voters rejected the sweeping measures Sunday by a vote of 51% to 49%, said Tibisay Lucena, chief of the National Electoral Council. She said that with 88% of the votes counted, the trend was irreversible.
Opposition supporters shouted with joy as Lucena announced the results on national television early Monday, their first victory against Chavez after nine years of electoral defeats.
Some broke down in tears. Others began chanting: “And now he’s going away!”
“This was a photo finish,” Chavez told reporters at the presidential palace, adding that he has “heard the voice of the people and will always continue to hear it.”
Chavez said his respect for the outcome should vindicate his standing as a democratic leader.
“From this moment on, let’s be calm,” he declared. “There is no dictatorship here.”
Critics including Roman Catholic leaders, press freedom groups, human rights groups and prominent business leaders feared the constitutional reforms would have granted Chavez unchecked power and threatened basic rights.
“Don’t feel sad,” Chavez urged supporters, who gave him a re-election victory with 63% of the vote exactly a year ago. He blamed the loss by “microscopic margins” on low turnout among his supporters. Voter participation was 56% overall.
The defeated reforms would have created new forms of communal property, let Chavez handpick local leaders under a redrawn political map, lengthened presidential terms from six to seven years and let Chavez seek re-election indefinitely. Now, Chavez will be barred from running again in 2012.
Other changes would have shortened the workday from eight hours to six, created a social security fund for millions of informal laborers and promoted communal councils where residents decide how to spend government funds.
Text from the original article ommitted from the Grand Rapids Press version:
Along with several hundred other dejected Chavez supporters, Nelly Hernandez, a 37-year-old street vendor, cried as she wandered outside the presidential palace amid broken beer bottles while government employees dismantled a stage that had been prepared for a possible victory.
“It’s difficult to accept this, but Chavez has not abandoned us, he’ll still be there for us,” she said between sobs.
Chavez urged calm and restraint. “To those who voted against my proposal, I thank them and congratulate them,” he said.
“I ask all of you to go home, know how to handle your victory,” the 53-year-old president said. “You won it. I wouldn’t have wanted that Pyrrhic victory.”
Tensions had surged in recent weeks as university students led protests and occasionally clashed with police and Chavista groups.
Chavez made it clear, though, that he has no intention of abandoning his petrodollar-fueled attempt to turn Venezuela into a socialist state. He has progressively steamrolled the opposition, with his allies now controlling the National Assembly and most other elected posts.
And he suggested he hasn’t given up on his vision of permanently leaving his mark. Echoing words he spoke when as an army officer he was captured leading a failed 1992 coup, he said: “For now, we couldn’t.”
At opposition headquarters in an affluent east Caracas district, jubilant Chavez foes sang the national anthem.
“We’ve put a stop to the socialist authoritarian project,” said one leader, Leopoldo Lopez. “Now we’re opening the way to democracy.”
Chavez had warned opponents ahead of the vote he would not tolerate attempts to incite violence, and threatened to cut off oil exports to the U.S. if Washington interfered.
Chavez, who was briefly ousted in a failed 2002 coup, said of his opponents: “I hope they forget about shortcuts, leaps into the dark violence.”
A close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Chavez is seen by many supporters as a champion of the poor and has redistributed more oil wealth than any other leader in memory.
All was reported calm during Sunday’s voting but 45 people were detained, most for committing ballot-related crimes like “destroying electoral materials,” said Gen. Jesus Gonzalez, chief of a military command overseeing security.
Lucena called the vote “the calmest we’ve had in the last 10 years.”