After a five smooth days in
Half of the country celebrated and the other half protested on the third anniversary of his current mandateChavez opponents collected the 2.7 million signatures needed to demand a referendum on his presidency, but divisions in the National Assembly did not allow appointing an electoral council to vote on the recall.
However, the initial step was taken, as 20 percent of the electorate already expressed its will to participate in such a vote. However, the Venezuelan leader answered from
Chavez visited Argentina from Saturday to Wednesday in a semi-official trip, in which signed cooperation programs with Argentina's President Nestor Kirchner, claimed to eliminate the International Monetary Fund, criticized Bush-led US administration, sang and danced Tango at the local TV station and pressed for Latin American integration. Also in
The signatures "appear to be illegal in every way. They don't meet constitutional requirements," Chбvez said in
If electoral authorities verify the signatures, a referendum could be held in 90 days, on Nov. 20, the opposition said. However, personal rivalries among its leaders divided the opposition front. Moreover, the government has managed to revive the key oil industry and stabilize the economy due to special anti-market measures adopted to stop capital flight.
The key oil industry will be, indeed, in the government's camp, as it drives the country's economy. Neither PDVSA workers nor managers expressed support for the referendum. Moreover, protesters that passed by company's headquarters found a cold reception from employees.
According to observers, that could make it tougher than ever for government opponents to remove Chavez, who has moved to increase his grip on power after being briefly ousted in early 2002. It should also keep the oil flowing relatively smoothly in this South American country, unlike the two-month strike that began last December and temporarily paralyzed output.
Local polls show Chavez could lose the recall on his presidency, but as the local media stands clearly against the Venezuelan leader, it is not possible to trust these polls. Notwithstanding, there is not one single Venezuelan politician popular enough to defeat Chavez in a polarized election. Therefore, many wonder: If Chavez's out, what's next?