Bad news for Chavez. And Castro Inc.
Despite a massive propaganda campaign by the Chavez government, intimidation by his thuggish supporters and all sorts of behind-the-scenes irregularities with the counting, a majority of Venezuelans categorically rejected the proposed constitutional “reforms”.
In other words, they rejected the Chavez brand of populist, neo-Castroite “socialism”.
Of course, Chavez remains in office until his term expires in 2013. And like the bad looser he is, he has warned that he may have another go at another referendum. He is not going to go away in a hurry, to be sure, but the truth is that his position and his prestige among voters has been severely dented.
It is a huge blow.
As for his pals in Havana, they must be in a state of absolute shock. After all, the very notion of free and (relatively) fair elections, let alone the prospect of electoral defeat, is unknown in Fidel Castro’s island paradise.
Which may explain the subdued response from the regime thus far.
Apart from a characteristically inept attempt by Granma to "spin" the result as a positive for Chavez and his the "Bolivarian Revolution", the only official comment at time of writing has come from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the moronic Felipe Perez Roque.
Perez Roque told reporters he did not think the referendum result would have any impact on the existing ties between Cuba and Venezuela, whose petrodollars continue to prop up the otherwise moribund Castro regime.
"It’s not as if Chavez has lost the presidency,” he said.
“All that has happened is that the reform project has been defeated, by a small margin. Chavez remains the president and he will remain in office until 2013, so we have plenty of time to think this through.”