Updated: Will a Set-back for Hugo ChavÃ©z be a Victory for Rational Discourse?
Over in Foreign Policy, I'm running a commentary by The Guardian's Seumas Milne about the narrow defeat of Hugo ChavÃƒÂ©z' reform package* in Sunday's referendum in Venezuela.
It's well worth reading, but Milne makes one point with which I have to disagree:
Perhaps most significantly for a better international understanding of what is actually going on in Venezuela, yesterday's result must surely discredit the canard that the country is somehow slipping into authoritarian or even dictatorial rule. It is clearly doing nothing of the sort. The referendum was a convincing display of democracy in action - though doubtless if the margin of victory had been the other way round, the US-backed opposition would have cried foul and swathes of the western media would have accused ChÃƒÂ¡vez of imposing a dictatorship.
I visited over half a dozen polling stations yesterday in the state of Vargas north-east of Caracas and in the city itself and the process seemed if anything more impressively run than in Britain - with opposition monitors everywhere declaring themselves satisfied with the transparency and integrity of the process.It "must surely" nothing.