And will God look favourably this time?

Having withstood years of international criticism, Chavez may need a bit of divine favour in his closest election battle yet.
Hugh O'Shaughnessy

The shadow of the failed rightwing coup in 2002 which overthrew President Hugo Chavez for a day and a half in 2002 is still haunting this country as it prepares for Sunday´s election. Of course the British and US governments –whose members were initially excited by the expected outcome and hailed the plotters who sacked the judges and closed down democracy - are more than shy when these events are referred to today. One minor Labour politician, now on the sidelines of British affairs, went as far, one remembers, as to compare the President of Venezuela with Mussolini in the Murdoch press.

But Venezuelans – some with sadness some with delight -remember the sad farce, not least because Enrique Capriles Radonski, the principal opponent of Chavez for the presidency, played a leading part in the debacle.

But Chavez himself continues, like some powerful galleon in a strong breeze, to harangue his countrymen and countrywomen into coming out to vote for him. Bit fatter in the face after all his radiation treatment for cáncer, he battles on with an avalanche of ideas, plans stratagies and strategems to make Venzuelas into a country free not just of poverty – he has already cut the number of indigent people from half to a Little over a quarter of the population; there´s a health service; new universities have been built alongside hundreds of thousands of new dwellings for slumdwellers, the state now has the whip-hand over the foreign oil companies in a booming oil sector where a barrel goes for US100 dollars.

The poorest half of society has never had so much care lavished on it.

Abroad he has made common cause with most of Latin America which is rapidly forging a new foreign policy, making his country`s voice heard against those who are keeping Palestine in ilegal subjection and standing unashamed against the widepsread demonisation of Iran.

The strategy of the US and Western powers has been spectaculary successful in beshirching his reform programme and his aim for 20th century socialism. Nevertheless, despite all the interested propaganda there is a broad tolerance of the opposition who are indeed running him close in Sunday´s election. Those who invaded Iraq on a false pretext should look to their onw actions before criticising Chavez.

He has one trump card in the media in the form of Telesur, the TV group which has grown strong here and in the región. Walter Martinez, its main presenter yesterday presented a fine analysis of the crisis over Syria of an intellectual quality not matched by any media in the North Atlantic world.

Despite widespread foreign hostility and criticism neither it nor his cáncer is halting him. He constantly addresses the Almighty – the element he calls “Dioisito” – “Mr God”. – that goes down well here. And, who knows? Mr God may return some favours on Sunday.