Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have been dancing in the streets to mark his defeat in a referendum on changing the constitution. By a narrow margin, voters rejected his bid to run for re-election indefinitely and accelerate his socialist revolution.
Failure at the ballot box is new ground for Chavez who has won all previous national ballots since he swept to power in 1998. He was both conciliatory and defiant in defeat. A close ally of Cuba, Chavez quoted its ailing leader. “As Fidel said, this is a people under fire.” “Our people were submitted to an intense artillery barrage of lies, of fears. Nevertheless, that 49 percent voted for the socialist project, despite everything. I think is a great political step, a great political leap,” he told a news conference.
Their leader might be putting a brave face on it, but Chavez’s supporters found it hard to do likewise. His state-backed campaign lost out to a student-led opposition. The US Bush administration hailed the defeat of one of its most virulent critics, saying it “bodes well … for freedom and liberty.”