Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has won his fourth presidential election in a race seen as his strongest challenge yet. With a historic turnout of 80 percent, Chávez took 54 percent of the vote, besting challenger Henrique Capriles’s 44.9 percent. We go to Caracas to speak with actor and activist Danny Glover, who traveled to Venezuela to monitor the election. Addressing the record turnout and the wide support for Chávez’s anti-poverty program, even among members of the opposition, Glover predicts that “we may find that certainly President Chávez and those [other Latin American leaders] who are re-elected will really create a new page in this history of this region.”
Danny Glover, American actor, film director and political activist. He has been in Venezuela as an electoral monitor. He joins us now from Caracas.
Amy Goodman: We are on the road on a 100-city tour in Durango, Colorado. But first we turn to Venezuela, where President Hugo Chávez has won his fourth presidential election, defeating challenger Henrique Capriles in a race widely seen as Chávez’s strongest challenge since his first victory in 1998. Chávez won 54 percent of the vote, with Capriles gaining just under 45 percent.
Tens of thousands celebrated in the streets of the capital Caracas after the results were announced. Chávez held a replica of the sword of independence hero Simón Bolívar during the victory celebration. At a rally outside the presidential palace, Chávez reached out to the political opposition and called for unity among Venezuelans.
President Hugo Chavez: [translated] To those who promote hate, to those who promote social poison, to those who are always trying to deny all the good things that happen in Venezuela, I invite them to dialogue, to debate and to work together for Venezuela, for the Bolivarian people, for the Bolivarian Venezuela. That’s why I start by sending these greetings to them and extending these two hands and heart to them in the name of all of us, because we are brothers in the fatherland of Bolívar.
Amy Goodman: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, speaking after winning another six-year term in office. In his concession speech later Sunday night, Capriles urged Chávez to recognize the voices of those who voted against him.
Henrique Capriles: [translated] I hope a political movement that has been in power for 14 years understands that almost half the country does not agree with it. I ask those who remain in power for respect, consideration and recognition of almost half the country.
Amy Goodman: To talk more about the significance of Chávez’s victory, we go to Caracas to speak with Danny Glover, American actor, film director, political activist. He’s been in Venezuela as an electoral monitor.
Danny Glover, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you tell us what you have observed in this fourth election of President Chávez?
Danny Glover: Well, thank you, first of all, for having me on the show, Amy.
I had the opportunity to witness something very extraordinary in this hemisphere, and certainly in Venezuela: an election that was very clean, an election that—where the people had—were greatly enthusiastic on both sides about the prospect of another six years. And I witnessed—I went from polling stations, several polling stations, and talked to people, and through an interpreter, about what they felt about the voting process itself.
And the voting process is very, very meticulous and at the same time very thorough, in that you began with your voting card, then a fingerprint, then you vote. And then all of that is vetted through another process, including a mark on your hand, your thumb, a purple mark on your hand. So I witnessed this, and with the incredible enthusiasm around the polls.
And it’s on Sunday now. It takes place on Sunday, when there’s not a great deal of traffic on the street, and people voted to this or that. And they don’t sell liquor on Sunday as a result of the voting process, as well.
Amy Goodman: Danny Glover, why did you go down to Venezuela? And talk about where you have spent your time.
Danny Glover: Well, the first thing that—the reason I came, I was invited by the electoral commission to come here and be an accompaniment or a monitor. But my relationship with Venezuela has been one in which—it’s been over the last eight years, and even further than that, at the World Conference on Racism in 2001. I’ve been meeting African descendants in the region and had great discussions with them about the changes that were happening in the region and promoting more democracy, and perhaps understanding their own involvement. So, through TransAfrica Forum, we began to form these relationships, develop these relationships, which culminated in me coming to Venezuela in 2004, meeting with the Venezuelan Afro-descendancy groups there, and also meeting with the president. The president—certainly President Chávez expressed his—certainly expressed that they had not included within the 1999 constitution—looked out for—took into consideration the aspirations of Afro-descendants and, since then, has promoted programs in which they’ve improved the lives of Afro-descendants.
Well, during the day, we certainly—the day of the election, Sunday, we spent time here in Caracas. Then Monday, we went to the community of Barlovento, which is in Miranda state, was in Capriles’s—where he’s the governor of, the opposition leader is the governor of. We spent time talking to people and really understanding the real narrative around what this election means to people, poor people, people who have been affected by the changes that had happened in the—during the time of this regime, people who have been affected by the changes that have happened over the last 13 years. We—to people who talked about increased healthcare access, also increased education, also the building of co-operatives around chocolate, first of all, and also around bananas. And all of them expressed a sense of pride, a sense of also relief that President Chávez had been re-elected.
Amy Goodman: Danny Glover, I wanted to ask you about the comment of presidential candidate Mitt Romney. A day after Hugo Chávez won re-election, the Republican presidential nominee criticized the Obama administration for allowing Chávez to expand his influence in the region.
Mitt Romney: And here in our own hemisphere, where our neighbors in Latin America want to resist the failed ideology of Hugo Chávez and the Castro brothers and deepen ties with the United States on trade and energy and security, but in all these places, just as in the Middle East, the question is asked: where does America stand?
Amy Goodman: That was Mitt Romney. Danny Glover, your response?
Danny Glover: Rate of poverty in the area, as much as 40 percent, near 40 percent over the last 13 years here in Venezuela. That is the experience all over the region. And part of it is associated with the integration. But once you get out in the field, you begin to talk with people who have worked their way—and not cash handouts, but worked their way—out of poverty. And that’s the real story of the achievement, not only in Venezuela, but in other places, as well.
Amy Goodman: Finally, Danny, you have spent time with President Chávez. Were you with him when he voted? And how is his health? He has been treated for cancer now for quite some time.
Danny Glover: Well, I saw someone—and I have not seen pictures of President Chávez over this ordeal in terms of his health and dealing with his cancer, but I just saw someone very energized and a little bit heavier than I remembered him from the last time I was here and saw him, which has been, I think, around—the last time I saw him was in New York, rather, about three years ago. So, he seemed to be very excited and energized. And certainly, those of us who were a part of the delegation who met him at his voting station were certainly taken by his vigor.
Amy Goodman: And Capriles’s warning, though of course he conceded the election, saying that Chávez should recognize the voices of those who voted against them, finally, Danny Glover?
Danny Glover: Well, it seems as if the—and quite, quite frankly, 40 percent of the vote or 44 percent of the vote is quite substantial, in terms of this. And the question becomes, of course—and this is for others to think about and also write about—is that, what group of those were supportive of the agenda on the right, as opposed to those who were—wanted Chávez, specifically, out of office? And that’s very—that’s something very concerned, but you have 80—of a concern. But there were 80 percent of the population voted. I think some of us would wish that at least a portion that within our coming election. But 80 percent of people voted in this election. And people thought it was a turning point. It was a turning point for what the administration has attempted to do over the last 13 years. So, it’s certainly a question as he—as I listened to his own remarks on his concession speech, the fact that he kept pointing to the fact that there’s a large number of people, a great number of people, nearly half the population, as he expressed, that voted against what the regime has had.
But simply in looking at his platform, certainly, he adopted a great number of the platforms, the anti-poverty platforms, that had been adopted over the last 13 years. No one would suggest that these platforms or the programs have failed—greater access to healthcare, better healthcare, education. The number of young people in school and university has doubled over that period time. No one would argue with that. So it seems as if the people—that people who represent the opposition—and it’s not—certainly, this is my generalization—maybe, in some sense, feel that they’re building toward an eventual turn of events that would allow a more—a more adjusted sense of what change should be or what prosperity should be and where that should be and whose hands it should be in.
Amy Goodman: Danny Glover—
Danny Glover: The reasons, we know, for the particular changes that have occurred over the last 13 years—
Amy Goodman: I want to thank you very much. Danny—
Danny Glover: —is that the state has been able to take over the public sector, primarily the resources in oil, which were abundant, and everything else, and been able to use that to eradicate poverty. So, those are the real things. I think that there—because of the situation in the region itself and the integration in the region, we may find that certainly President Chávez and those who are re-elected will really turn out—create a new page in this history of this region.
Amy Goodman: Danny Glover, I want to thank you very much for being with us, American actor, director and activist. He was in Venezuela as an election monitor, speaking to us from Caracas.