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Column 100112 Brewer

Monday, October 1, 2012

Will Venezuela's Presidential Election be Honest and Fair?

By Jerry Brewer

Venezuelans are preparing to cast ballots next Sunday, October 7, to elect their next president -- either a strong man who will continue in office, or a new leader who will bring renewed hope to the many who have opposed President Hugo Chavez (and his regime) who has held power for almost 14 years.

A usual political question comes to mind when two sides rally for their choice to serve. Do you feel you are better off today, due to the current administration's tenure in office, or do you make a change?

In Venezuela, the answer may lie in the reactive nature of the current administration that is planning to deploy 14,836 police officers to ensure security during Sunday's general elections. This includes, in a rare show of force, "8,262 policemen who will join the police force a week after their recent graduation," according to officials. As well, those officials add that these police forces will "work closely with the Armed Forces."

Hugo Chavez is 58 years old, and he has served as Venezuela's president since 1999. With Chavez's political ideology of Bolivariansim and "Socialism for the 21st Century," he has focused on implementing socialist reforms in the country as part of a social project known as the "Bolivarian Revolution."

As Chavez's past popularity continues to wane within Venezuela, he faces a formidable opponent in candidate Henrique Capriles. Polls are currently projecting a close race that may subtly indicate that Chavez has lost support among Venezuela's poor -- a major portion of the populace that he promised many reforms well over a decade ago.

The true results of Chavez's leftist rule to date have been some of the most devastating in Venezuela's history, with the poor continuing to live below the poverty line, in squalor, unsafe homes, with little food and rolling blackouts of electricity, among other things.

A critical issue that Chavez refuses to discuss with the people of Venezuelan is the amount of money coming into the country, that has been the highest in the nation's history, yet billions of bolivars and dollars have been squandering to purchase weapons in Russia and other countries, and the disbursing of significant amounts of money to other Latin American countries in exchange for promises of political loyalty and support.

Too, Chavez refuses open debate with his opponent, citing the opposition is not worthy to face him.

A real and major concern for a once proud Venezuelan homeland is Chavez having taken up the banner of Fidel Castro and Cuba's failed revolution of atrocities, human rights abuses and shameful misery.

Today, Venezuela's violent crime rate is among the worst in the world (see "Crime in Venezuela," The Economist, April 14, 2012). This fact begs the question as to how can nearly 15,000 policemen be deployed to presidential election watch, along with military officials, and not to an ever increasing homicide rate that may be the worst in the world today?  There were 19,336 homicides in 2011 alone. Kidnapping, extortion, and armed robberies are taking place throughout Caracas and other cities, including areas generally presumed safe and frequented by tourists.

Chavez responded to this disparity in policing needs by justifying election security, saying "... his government would not accept 'acts of violence' like in 2002 and 2003," when he was briefly overthrown in a coup and resisted a 2-month general strike that paralyzed oil production and the economy.

Chavez says he is expecting the opposition to say that there was fraud during the forthcoming elections, adding, "I'm making a list of actions for my government to take in the event that we see other episodes of violence. If they dare to try something they'll regret it for the rest of their lives."

This rash and threatening dialogue in contrast to his own former efforts and acts to destabilize the Venezuelan government's status quo -- after leaving prison, following two years of incarceration for leading an unsuccessful coup d'état in 1992.


Widespread allegations of Chavez-regime corruption continue to surface. The recent capture of Sergio Villarreal Barragan, known as "El Grande," of the Mexican Beltran Leyva drug organization, revealed additional charges. Barragan accused Venezuelan military generals of "complicity in an international cocaine trafficking network that sent drug flights to Mexico with tons of cocaine, from the northwest Venezuela city of Maracaibo to the Toluca airport in central Mexico." It was reported that Barragan confessed "several Venezuelan generals knew of the operation, as did (incarcerated) Venezuelan drug kingpin Walid Makled."

Venezuelans now approach next Sunday's electoral process after futile years of seeking answers and truth from Chavez and his fellow leftists. Many voters doing so with the justified fear that corrupt electoral processes and intimidation, by Chavista agents, along with the lack of competent checks and balances within the Chavez system and his "Bolivarian Revolution," may take a harmful toll on Venezuela for decades to come.

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at http://www.cjiausa.org/.


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