VIO News Blog

November 21, 2008

Chavez’s United Socialist Party Likely to Retain Most States in Sunday’s Elections

Sunday’s regional elections are top news today as campaigning ends in Venezuela and voters prepare to go to the polls for the 11th time in a decade. The AFP reports that the elections, in which citizens will choose 22 governors and 328 mayors,are a test of the popularity of the president. Chavez’s political party, the PSUV “will likely hold most states and cities, but might lose some posts.”

Several other sources today claim that Chavez’s popularity is slipping despite approval ratings of 60 percent and higher. The worst treatments come from the Washington Post, Bloomberg, and the Miami Herald. The Post predicts that opposition candidates will governorships in 12 states or more in an article that takes a disparaging view of government supporters as mindless “worshipers.” Bloomberg and the Herald provide similarly biased accounts, both of which dismiss the Chavez government as “authoritarian.” This is despite the fact that elections in Venezuela have been deemed free and fair by all international observers. Venezuelans themselves showed a rate of satisfaction with how democracy functions in their country that is second highest in the region in the new poll by Latinobarometro.

A Miami Herald op-ed today says the opposition should “seize victory” against President Chavez, who is portrayed as an “authoritarian and antidemocratic leader who is clinging to power at all costs.” On the contrary, Chavez has altered policy to reflect the will of the people on several occasions, including last December after constitutional reforms did not pass in a national referendum. He has also pardoned political opponents, and revoked unpopular policies such as a national intelligence law and new school curricula.

An opinion piece in the Christian Science Monitor provides a more measured approach to the political scene in Venezuela, raising the question of whether the country will move toward implementing socialism. It mentions, though, without citing examples, supposed new restrictions on civil liberties, free expression, and private property. Venezuela’s constitution guarantees protection of all of these rights, as well as many others that make the charter one of the most progressive in the world.

Finally, Venezuela’s economic cooperation with Vietnam is also in the news today. The AP reports that President Chavez and Vietnamese President Triet signed a $200 billion joint development fund to help build factories for lighbulbs and trucks. The countries also inked 15 cooperation deals, according to AFP.

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