Chávez Addresses Nation from People’s Balcony

David Smilde

Surrounded by ministers and family members, Hugo Chávez addressed followers from the Balcón del Pueblo (the People’s Balcony). The speech was broadcast on a national cadena (transmitted on all television and radio stations).

Chávez began by recognizing the Venezuelan people for an electoral turnout that exceeded 80%. He also immediately recognized the opposition for recognizing the election result, saying it was “important for the construction of peace and tolerance.” He said they would be invited “to dialogue, debate and work together for Bolivarian Venezuela.” Towards the end of his speech he again recognized “the opposition leadership for not lending themselves to destabilization plans.”

He said that the election refuted that those who described Venezuela as a disaster. He said “Venezuela is not a catastrophe. It is the best Venezuela we have had in 200 years.” However, he also said that he promised to be a better president–more effective and more efficient.

He emphasized that they had won in 20 of 22 states and proceeded to mention them one-by-one to cheers of the crowd. With state and municipal elections two months away, Chávez was clearly trying to turn some of the enthusiasm of victory back toward the regions. Attention to the December elections was curiously absent from Capriles’s speech.

Three things were particularly noticeable about this speech. First, while his oratory was energetic, Chávez hardly smiled or laughed. Like Capriles, he looked tired. Second, he used little divisive language when referring to the opposition, mainly congratulating them for accepting the electoral result. Third, he made scarce mention of socialism. Most of the speech was nationalistic, emphasizing independence and autonomy. The last time he mentioned socialism he loaded it up with adjectives: “democratic, Bolivarian, 21st Century socialism.” This represented a big difference from his 2009 referendum win which he described as clear support for a radicalization of socialism.

Chávez ended the event waving a full sized Venezuelan flag from the balcony.