Chávez Wins an Unprecedented Fourth Term

On October 7th, 58 year old Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was re-elected as President of Venezuela for the fourth time. The head of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela received 55% of the vote, a much narrower margin of victory than in 2006 (when he won with 63% of the vote). Chávez ran against Henrique Capriles, a centrist politician who is both a state governor and a member of the opposition party, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). Many compared Capriles and Chávez to David and Goliath, respectively. In this case, Goliath was triumphant, running an effectively disciplined campaign steered towards the middle class. Unlike the usual “sore losers” in Venezuelan electoral history, Capriles accepted the defeat graciously and even congratulated Chávez after the news broke. Capriles did also say that he would run for election in six years’ time (the length of a standard Venezuelan presidential term) and that he would do his best to keep Chávez’s opposition motivated and united.

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela
(PRESIDENCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Chávez certainly owes this victory (as well as his previous ones) to Venezuela’s oil boom, which has given him billions of dollars to spend on his supporters. His reputation as a politician with a talent for getting legislation passed (one such law, enacted in the ‘90s, removed presidential term limits, allowing him to serve yet another term) was also a factor in his re-election campaign. His widespread popularity with the poorest of the Venezuelan poor, who call him the “Savior of Venezuela” was similarly significant.

Lately, however, there have been many economic warning signs across the country. Public spending has gone up, inflation is near 20%, and the government is deeply in debt, having borrowed heavily in order to support Chávez’s grand vision. Of course, it’s possible the economy is not Chávez’s biggest concern at the moment. His health has most definitely been failing him for the past year or so. He has missed several campaign appearances, and has undergone multiple operations for pelvic cancer. Though Chávez claims to be completely cured, there has been much secrecy concerning the details of his disease and treatment; some speculate he won’t live through his presidency.

Despite such gloomy predictions, Chávez was jubilant. “Thank you, my God,” he tweeted after the election results were announced. “Thanks, my beloved people!!! Thanks to everyone. Viva Venezuela!!!!”.

— Ann Abbott Freeman, Staff Writer

Posted by on October 17, 2012. Filed under World News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry