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December 1, 2007
Chavez Calls Referendum Opponents "Traitors"
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is getting more hysterical in his condemnation of those who would deny him his "constitutional coup" in a referendum scheduled for early next week.
Chávez's behavior appears increasingly unpredictable, but some political analysts say the bluster may be a tactic designed to generate support for the constitutional changes that Venezuelans will vote on in Sunday's referendum. If Chavez is nervous, it could very well be that he's concerned that the overwhelming vote in favor of the referendum may not be forthcoming. No one doubts that Chavez won't engineer its victory through manipulation of the vote. But it's not going to look good if he gets 60-70% of the vote with recent polls showing the issue so close.
Although a few weeks ago the proposals had been expected to receive easy approval, polls released last week showed that the opposition could ultimately prevail in a tight contest.
He's decided that his best tactic to recover the control of his movement is to instill fear in his people that there's a world conspiracy against Venezuela," said Demetrio Boersner, a political analyst and former diplomat. "It's a tactic that uses histrionics as a weapon to unite the people so they vote for him on Sunday."
The government says the rhetoric is no scare tactic, but rather a response to concerns that a destabilization plan is in the works. Officials point to negative press coverage, coupled with the Bush administration's statements questioning the fairness of the vote.
So Chavez blusters and resorts to the most childish kind of name calling in order to rouse his backers to turn out in force on election day. He has also threatened to cut off the supply of Venezuelan oil to the US - an empty gesture given that he would be forced to dump his supply on the spot market which would then be snapped up by American customers anyway, albeit at a premium.
Momentum is building against Chavez in these closing days. But few observers doubt that if Chavez wants the measures to pass, he would have little trouble in making his wish come true.