VIO News Blog

December 4, 2008

After Venezuela’s Regional Elections, Buzz Continues

The AP profiles the incoming Caracas metropolitan mayor, Antonio Ledezma, whose win was perhaps the most significant claimed by the opposition in regional elections on November 23rd. Ledezma is praised for his conciliatory tone and “lawyerly demeanor,” while President Chavez is quoted was saying that the opposition may try “to hatch a conspiracy once again.” The last time the city had an opposition mayor was in 2002, when the president endured an aborted coup that was given the seal of approval by U.S. government agencies.

In the wake of regional elections, debates are continuing about the significance of the results. A Miami Herald op-ed today proclaims a victory for the opposition in Venezuela, which earned five out of 22 state governorships. It wrongly states that the disqualification of candidates facing corruption charges was done by Chavez to thwart the opposition. In fact, some pro-Chavez candidates were also barred from running under the legislation, which was created by the National Assembly in 2001.

A second op-ed in Alternet offers some counter-arguments regarding the regional elections by taking a close look at the actual numbers. It points out that 57 percent of Venezuelans will remain under pro-government state leadership. Even in states where opposition candidates took governorships, most local municipalities — even in Zulia — opted for mayors from the government’s PSUV party. A PSUV mayor was elected in the most populous Caracas municipality of Libertador, although the city’s main mayor is opposition. PSUV wins were had in 77 percent of states and 80 percent of municipalities, and they showed larger margins of victory than those seen by the opposition.

In international news, the BBC reports that Russia’s fleet has left Venezuela and moved on to Panama after joint naval operations that lasted only one day. Prime Minister Putin said he does not see a need to build permanent bases in the region, according to the AP. The U.S. maintains several bases, and dozens more anti-drug radar stations, and has just dispatched a naval fleet to the region for the first time in half a century.

Finally, the San Francisco Chronicle considers what U.S. foreign policy in Latin America might look like under the Obama administration. Venezuela and Bolivia are said to remain “hostile nations,” despite the fact that both have repeatedly called for better relations with the U.S. and desire dialogue. The Chronicle concludes that Obama will continue Bush policies including “strong backing for Mexico and Colombia, continuation of the economic blockade of Cuba and a cautious approach toward Castro, Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales.”

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