Hugo Chávez has narrowly lost a referendum which would have done away with term limits on the Presidential office, and further centralised power. While this could be seen as a defeat, and interpreted in terms of the largely bourgeois opposition triumphing over his Bolivarian revolution, the sort of black and white discourse embraced by Hugo huggers and haters alike obscures a very important part of the reality of the situation – while Chávez himself continues to enjoy great popularity, some of the same voters whom he had himself empowered have made an important distinction between a regime focused on redressing poverty (and no matter how effective or otherwise you think his policies are, there’s no doubt about the intent and the significance of the disruption of oligarchical rule) and the institutions of democracy itself. It’s important to observe, as The Economist did, that opposition to the referendum included the former defence minister, General Raul Baduel, who was instrumental in fending off the 2002 coup, and Podemos, a social democratic party which had been part of Chávez’s electoral coalition from the start. So, you could call it a win for democracy. But don’t forget that it doesn’t fit neatly into the black and white narrative we’ll no doubt have served up to us.
Elsewhere: A similar point made by No Right Turn.