It appears Hugo Chavez has been reelected president of Venezuela by a big margin. While there have been a number of reports of irregularities, I doubt they were enough to change the outcome.
I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed– just as I was when Richard Nixon (in 1972) and Ronald Reagan (in 1984) were reelected by similarly overwhelming votes in the US. In elections, as in other aspects of life, the winner is not always the person I think ought to win.
Obviously Chavez has used Venezuela’s enormous oil wealth in ways that have made a difference to many of the country’s poor– and in ways he skillfully branded as his personal largesse– and they expressed their gratitude at the polls. He has also skillfully baited the Bush administration, thereby burnishing his “anti-imperialist” credentials. I still think he’s an authoritarian strongman with dangerous anti-democratic tendencies. But I hope his talk of a crackdown on the opposition is just talk. Anyone who cares about democracy ought to shudder when he says that the days of a “permissive Chavez” are over.