Electoral authorities say 54% of voters approved a constitutional amendment to remove limits on re-election and allow Chavez to stay in office until 2013.
The victory in the referendum vote bolsters support for the socialist party (PSUV), and for measures towards establishing Venezuelan sovereignty and social justice.
"Long live the revolution," shouted Chavez, as he stood on his palace balcony in front of hundreds of thousands of supporters.
Dozens of election observers from international bodies such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States were on hand to verify that the referendum was free and fair.
The following article by Luis Bilbao, written yesterday, dramatically portrays the background to this victory and the alarming threats of violent retaliation against the people's decision by the U.S.-backed right-wing opposition. See utube: www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2009/feb/16/hugo-chavez-venezuela-referendum
VENEZUELA: Reasons to be on alertLuis Bilbao, February 14, 2009
A string of provocations in the days leading up to the constitutional amendment referendum indicates the employment of a disturbance plan that could well be followed up with destabilizations attempts after the poll.
Amongst many other things – it would be too tedious to enumerate them all - those that stand out are the violent actions of student groups, the circulation of a counterrevolutionary proclamation amongst Armed Forces officers, the self-attack on a synagogue, the announcement of a trip by Lech Walesa (ex-Polish leader, dependent on the Vatican and the CIA) to coincide with the electoral event and the provocation by Spanish deputy Luis Herrero, from the fascist Popular Party, who on arriving in Caracas as an international observer issued harmful declarations, knowing full well that this would be motive for his expulsion by the National Electoral Court.All this has been accompanied by an orchestrated international media campaign that without any reserve or limits in its distortion of the truth, labours at confusing the real meaning of the amendment in order to present it as a step towards the instauration of a dictatorship in Venezuela. As only occurs in exceptional moments of danger for imperialist control, the major US press – especially the Washington Post – has put at stake its credibility, lying and falsifying via editorial notes.
The campaign kicked off after a meeting of leaders of the opposition with US State Department officials, held in Puerto Rico last January 9, where their destabilisation plans were adjusted in the faced off evidence that the Yes vote was gaining support amongst the electorate. Here, the international social-Christian current handed over $3 million to the conspirators, amongst whom were the director of Globovision, Alberto Federico Ravell, and the leader of the party Primera Justicia, Julio Borges.
One by one, these steps aimed at unleashing violence in Venezuela before the elections were discovered and neutralised by the government, including the detection and dismantlement of at least two Colombian paramilitary units contracted by the warmongering wing of the opposition.
Amongst the defensive reactions of the government, what stands out was the capacity to detect and detain various Armed Forces officers involved in an incipient coup plotting conspiracy. And no less resounding was the military response to an operation aimed at publicly involving General Jesus Gonzalez Gonzalez - head of Plan Republica, which is entrusted with ensuring that the electoral event goes ahead - in the coup plotting conspiracy.
At the same time as intelligence organisations have laboured with an efficiency and speed not seen in previous occasions, the principal force aimed at neutralising this escalation been the mass mobilisations that have been carried out in the function of a precise plan of action designed by Hugo Chavez – and, in fact for the first time, scrupulously controlled in its execution by the president himself, as if it were a military operation – in order to accomplish the task of clarification for the public in the lead up to electoral contest. That is why the youth identified with the revolution came out onto the streets to neutralise the attempt to make students appear as a compact mass force of opposition and paralyse potential adherents to these counterrevolutionary groups, who saw their actions and mobilisations reduced to a pathetic expression of isolation. Parallel to this, hundreds of thousands of “patrulleros” came out to explain to the population the significance of the vote.
Never before had this happened on such a scale. In the elections for governors and mayors last November, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela demonstrated its potential and was the artifice of the large electoral advance that was registered on that opportunity. But now its role has been qualitatively superior: it acted as a genuine instrument of masses mobilised by a leadership united behind a revolutionary and socialist objective.
PSUV: a combat party
The meaning of the eventual positive result in favour of the constitutional amendment, added with the revelation of this new phenomenon of the PSUV as a combat party, has exacerbated the belligerence of the opposition.
With the possibility that Chavez could be a candidate in the next elections in 2012, any perspective of an opposition electoral victory in the presidential dispute would be closed off completely. At the same time, the possibility that opposition groups could tempt certain wavering groupings within the PSUV to convert the struggle over candidates into a factor of division and debilitation would also be blocked off.US strategists know the significance of what this will mean, not only for Venezuela but for all Latin America. That is why they have manufactured this crescendo in counterrevolutionary activity and essentially campaigned not around the issue of the referendum, but instead limited themselves to denouncing a ridiculous and unsustainable danger of dictatorship based on the figure of Hugo Chavez.
That is why it is logical to think that the last step of this escalation will be the rejection of the Yes victory, which all the polls as showing as the likely result, including those paid for by opposition leaders.
Although the final result is in the hands of the men and women who will or will not turn up to cast their vote, everything seems to indicate that the never before seen effort of revolutionary propaganda carried out by the PSUV – and the inordinate effort of Chavez himself – will result in a massive turnout of the poor to participate in the electoral event. If this is verified, the Yes triumph will be overwhelming, including in proportions superior to those seen in the historic 2006 elections, when Chavez was re-elected on a campaign which raised this socialist proposal as the key slogan.Faced with such a perspective, it is not only the imperialist chiefs that are trembling. Concern also blights the centrist governments who sense the dynamic that will be triggered off in the entire region by a fourteenth electoral victory of the Bolivarian revolution.
So, we can expect a desperate intervention by imperialism’s strategists, stunned by the potent combination of the world capitalist crisis and the programmatic, organisational and political affirmation of a revolutionary socialist response. And the same goes in regards to expecting a pulling back by South American semi-allies, that in the midst of these tremors are wagering their survival on an agreement in response to the crisis that imperialism hopes to seal at the G-20 meeting in London next April 2.
Therefore, we must be on alert regarding events on February 15. If the United States succeeds in imposing a situation of violence in the face of a Yes victory, the conflict in Venezuela will extend itself like a trail of gun power across the region. What is impossible to expect from fearful governments - mass mobilisations at the continental scale in defence of the free expression of the Venezuelan majority - is left in the hands of those millions who see in the revolutionary government of Venezuela a lighthouse to orientate Latin American and the Caribbean in a moment of extreme crisis on the world scale.
[Translated by Federico Fuentes]
[Luis Bilbao is a central participant in the construction of the mass United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and in the formation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). He will be a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, to be held in Sydney, Australia, on April 10-12, 2009, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective and Green Left Weekly. http://www.worldatacrossroads.org/]