It was the toughest electoral challenge Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s president, has faced since he came to power 14 years ago. But the opposition simply could not overcome his enormous popularity.
“In foreign relations, the president has followed the same kind of policy [as his domestic policy], dividing, polarising, always going against whoever is not following his policies and that is something that will continue obviously. I don’t think [there will be] any change in that even though he is truly dependent on the US market especially for the oil.“
– Laura Rojas, a Capriles campaign member
Voters re-elected Chavez by a 10 per cent margin. And it was a historic turnout with more than 80 per cent of the country’s 19 million registered voters coming out to vote.
It is his Bolivarian revolution that won him the support of millions. And as he claimed victory late on Sunday, Chavez vowed to expand his socialist programmes which have reduced poverty, as well as expanded access to healthcare and education.
Over the next six years, Chavez will also have to address major challenges including government corruption, inefficiencies and a high crime rate.
Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera’s Latin America editor, has been covering the election, and she reported that the election process was a resounding success.
“He wanted to have won with an even bigger margin [but] after 14 years in power how many presidents can say they are re-elected with 10 per cent more of the vote than their rival. And that’s a huge majority, more importantly he still has absolute majority,” Newman said.
“We have to recognise there is an enormous division between the United States and Canada on one side and the rest of Latin America [on the other] …. Domestically there is also an enormous divide, so constantly to blame Chavez for dividing the continent or for dividing the country is, I think, a way to paper over very profound differences that do exist. And Chavez is trying to resolve these differences precisely by building up the strength of Latin America.“
– Gregory Wilpert, an author
“[And] it is not just the people who support the government who are breathing easy now, so are the governments of particularly Cuba and Nicaragua and to a certain extent Bolivia. These countries … Cuba especially, depend on help from Venezuela which is paid for with the oil wealth of this country.”
“He [has] promised he will tackle the faults of his government, referring to ineffeciency, corruption, crime …. To tackle those issues he said he is going to deepen the socialist component of his Bolivarian revolution, giving more power to the people and taking away power from government.”
Inside Story Americas asks: What will be the impact of Chavez’s victory on the region and beyond? And what must he do to tackle domestic challenges?
To discuss this, presenter Shihab Rattansi is joined by guests: Gregory Wilpert, the author of: Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The history and policies of the Chavez presidency; Deborah James, the director of International Programs at the Center for Economic and Policy Research; and Laura Rojas, a member of the Capriles campaign in Washington DC.
CHAVEZ’S DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN POLICY
- Hugo Chavez: “This has been a perfect battle, a democratic battle”
- Chavez has promised to respond with more efficiency to people’s needs
- He has heavily invested oil revenues in anti-poverty programmes
- Under Chavez’s rule, Venezuela’s poverty has dropped dramatically from 49 per cent in 1999 to 24 per cent in 2009
- Crime has soared under Chavez, with murders tripling in the last 12 years
- Widespread power outages in 2011 led to the rationing of electricity
- Venezuela also faces a major housing shortage – at least 2 million housing units are needed for the poor living in slums
- Chavez has been a vocal supporter of Cuba, Iran, Syria and Belarus
- Russia and China have expanded investment in Venezuela
- Chavez sends subsidised oil to allies around the world
- Venezuela sends about $3 billion worth of oil to Cuba yearly, in exchange of which Cuba sends doctors to Venezuela
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