Voters go to the polls today in Venezuela, in an election that is both divisive and important; it will decide the direction that the oil-rich nation moves, either further left toward state socialism or more toward the centre and increased private investment. President Hugo Chavez, the socialist president and populist is facing a stiff challenge from a much-younger opponent. The Washington Post writes:
Chavez’s challenger, Henrique Capriles, united the opposition for what has become a contest between two camps that distrust each other so deeply there are concerns whether a close election result will be respected. The stakes couldn’t be higher.
If Chavez wins a new six-year term, he gets a free hand to push for an even bigger state role in the economy, further limit dissent and continue to befriend rivals of the United States. If Capriles wins, a radical foreign policy shift can be expected along with an eventual loosening of state economic controls and an increase in private investment—though a tense transition would likely follow until the January inauguration because Chavez’s political machine thoroughly controls the wheels of government.
Many Venezuelans were nervous about what might happen if the disputes erupt over the election’s announced outcome.“Nobody trusts the other people, especially when it’s their political rivals,” said Maria Villareal, a teacher and Capriles supporter who stocked up on groceries Saturday. “We’re in a divided country, and I think Chavez is the one responsible.”I suspect that such sentiments are now common in Venezuela, and the 14-year Bolivian Revolution has met its match in the man of Henrique Capriles, at 40, a much younger rival. All polls say the election is close; this is not surprising. But the people of Venezuela will vote their interests, and it seems unlikely it will be with the incumbent.
You can read the rest of the article at [Washington Post]