Venezuela's Chavez comes across as an object of derision. There are those who call him a monkey, even Chavez has called himself a macaco in jest. But his machinations are no laughing matter. Having created a plebiscite to remain in power indefinitely under the guise of constitutional reform, he is now faced with an increasingly restive public. If he had not already co-opted the electoral process, Carter's assertions aside, his reforms would be even now heading for defeat. Opinion polls place "no" votes 10% ahead of "yes."
But what we do know is that allegations of fraud over his last race are rife. The kicker came when he appointed the head of the electoral process his vice president once his reelection was secure. If it walks like a duck.... But all of this is prelude.
Now, it seems that Chavez has learned well from his mentor in Cuba. Yesterday, he threatened to cut off US oil supplies, signalling the Americans that any help for the pro democracy movement would land them in dire straits:
“If ’yes’ wins on Sunday and the Venezuelan oligarchy, the violent Venezuelans — the ones who play the (U.S.) empire’s game — unleash violence with the tale that there was fraud ... minister, that very Monday you order a halt to the shipments of oil to the United States,”
Barring any mass miracle, "yes" will win on Sunday. Having engineered it, he knows that. It is practically a given that those who have been demonstrating for months, who have been cheated of their electoral rights, who only now see their mirror image in the desolation that is Cuba are not going to take their marbles and go home.
So just as the Castro government did with the missile crisis, he seeks to create a potential oil crisis to keep the Americans at bay. In a real showdown, though, Venezuela would be the loser. Despite the demand for oil, Venezuela's crude is very heavy. Few can process it. Witness the "new" recycled plant Chavez is developing in Cuba. But the even the specter of losing 20% of their imports would be a remarkable deterrent to the Americans, particularly in an election year and with a cultural climate that produces the likes of Sean Penn.
So, literally, the fate of their nation is in the hands of the Venezuelan people. They need to overwhelm the polls, overwhelm the fixes with their numbers. As it is, it I fear they have slept too long. Article here.