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Venezuelan elections. A right-wing opposition has soundly defeated the heirs to Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. But President Nicolás Maduro says the left has only lost the battle: “It’s not the time to cry, but to fight.”

In Venezuela, socialism suffers a ‘healthy slap’

At the main theater in Caracas, at the headquarters of the Bolivar-Chavez campaign, the screen turns off, interrupting the presidential speech. Someone is anxious to close the doors. It’s almost one o’clock in the morning and the workers are putting away the stands and the flags. The darkness masks the glances on people’s faces: triumphant, indignant or defeated.

The election day was a difficult one. The polls opened at 6 a.m. on Sunday, and there was a line until 7 p.m., which forced the National Electoral Council to extend the 6 p.m. closing time. It was a “Democratic celebration” without incident.

Three hours before the polls closed, the results of exit polling came in: The Venezuelan opposition won big over Nicolás Maduro’s Chavist party.

The political right, organized under the name Democratic Unity Roundtable, or the Spanish acronym MUD, won 99 seats while the government coalition led by the Great Patriotic Pole party won 46 seats. The count includes 96.3 percent of the ballots that were counted electronically. As of this writing, only 22 polling places have not been included, where the results were too close to call.

Out of a population of 33 million people, more than 6 million live in the capital and about 19.5 million have the right to vote. Almost three-fourths of the electorate voted.

But the government’s “10 for 1” campaign — a strategy for each party member to urge 10 others to the polls — was apparently insufficient. Many people turned their backs. And in this 20th election since Hugo Chavez first came to power 17 years ago, his political ideology lost.

“They went around the neighborhoods,” President Maduro said yesterday. “We saw people come out and encourage us, but there were also a great many who didn’t have their pinky finger tinted with the ink that comes from voting.”

Like in Allende’s Chile, the powers that be and their American godfathers “ruined the economy” of Venezuela. An opposition without a plan or morals has had an easy time of accentuating the weakness, ingenuity and errors of chavism, using Washington’s money to buy consensus among the discontented.

To maintain the big business of international contraband, the Colombian paramilitary infiltrated and reshaped local criminality. On every street of every town there were miles of lines in subsidized supermarkets and sky-high prices in stores despite laws to prevent more than 30 percent profit.

In every line, we saw people agitating voters and manipulating crowds exasperated by hours of waiting: “Enough of the corrupt government, Venezuela wants a change,” said one of the pamphlets.

A return to the use of force modeled after the International Monetary Fund, like the one announced by Mauricio Macri in Argentina, whose economic cabinet is in large part made up of men from multinational corporations and representatives of the private sector. It’s a return to power for the North Americans for a country on the brink of new alliances in solidarity for the continent. A continent with a huge appetite that is custodian to the largest oil reserves in the world, one of the largest ecological diversity, rich in water and natural resources — all fundamental for new wars in the third millennium.

Among the first goals of the government, MUD has called for the destruction of Petrocaribe — the state company that supplies low-cost oil to the Caribbean in exchange for products and services — and the expulsion of Nicolás Maduro.

A group of Latin American ex-presidents from the sinister past, including Bolivian Jorge Quiroga, came to announce the winds that will be blowing over the new Venezuela. Near the end of voting day, the election council suspended Quiroga’s credentials. He had publicly asked for the peremptory closing of polling stations at 6 p.m., even though the constitution allows them to stay open as long as there are people in line.

Il manifesto found, through interviews with MUD “observers,” the international right provided a carefully worded script for the local puppets based on flimsy propaganda: transition, freedom of expression, amnesty for those in prison for having participated in a coup, the opening of markets, etc.

Federica Mogherini, the E.U. foreign minister, sent her congratulations from Italy. From Cuba, Fidel Castro sent a message of solidarity to Maduro: “There will be other victories,” he said. Evo Morales in Bolivia invited everyone to reflect on the arrogance of those who do not accept the sovereignty of nations.

MUD has already announced its top agenda priorities for Jan. 5, when it will take control of parliament. They include taking back the main state holdings, expelling disliked journalists (yesterday they prevented state TV from entering the post-electoral meeting), removing Chavez’s remains from the Military History Museum in Caracas and, generally, the correction of the “model of failure.”

It’s a model that, to produce structural changes, has bet on “human socialism” — navigating (against the stream and frequently improvising) in the treacherous waters of international capitalism, and “sleeping with the enemy at home.”

Is the Bolivarian experiment over? Is the progressive cycle in Latin America over?

In the global disaster of wars and barbarism, in the absence of a point of view that guides a multi-polar world toward socialism and legitimate sovereignty, it wouldn’t surprise us. The challenge at hand goes beyond the election. The forces behind the transformation are decisive and unrelenting.

“Savage, parasitic capitalism has won the economic war,” Maduro said. “And now it imposes a non-revolutionary plan to take apart the democratic state of justice and rights. But we, with the constitution in hand, will defend our people. It’s not the time to cry, but to fight. Let’s consider this defeat like a slap in the face to wake us up. It’s a chance to reflect on our errors and to leave the catacombs like the Christians after Jesus’ death and to unite to build new victories. We have lost a battle. For now.”

Por ahora. Just as Chavez said, preparing his return after a failed civil-military revolt in 1992.