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Analysis: Six More Years of Chavez

Council on Foreign Relations

Updated: December 4, 2006
Prepared by: Stephanie Hanson

On Sunday, Venezuelans reelected President Hugo Chavez, whose socialist-inspired policies and anti-U.S. rhetoric have resonated with the poor (BBC). Ahead of the elections, Chavez had been raising eyebrows at home and abroad, polarizing Venezuelans in the process. Though government slogans espouse the country’s harmony, Chavez’s ubiquitous red billboards and multi-hour television and radio speeches seemed to be sowing divisions (TIME) in the country.

The once-fragmented opposition gained traction by uniting behind presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, governor of the country’s second-largest state. Winning 38 percent of the vote, Rosales polled much better than many anticipated (NYT). He criticized Chavez for wasting oil revenue on aid to Argentina and Cuba and ignoring domestic problems (WashPost). He also proposed issuing a debit card (El Universal) that would shift 20 percent of oil revenues directly to poor families. He recently drew a crowd in Caracas of several hundred thousand shouting, “Dare to change!” (AP).

The opposition’s momentum appears of little concern to Chavez, who continues to direct his rhetorical fire at the United States. At his final election rally he cried, “We are confronting the devil," (BBC), a reference to President Bush. The United States has remained quiet in the run-up to Venezuela’s elections but U.S. aid to Venezuelan organizations, some of which are critical of Chavez and the government, has irked Venezuelan officials (NYT). The government’s hammering on the United States has trickled down to the streets: A recent poll conducted by the Associated Press and Ipsos shows that half of Venezuelans think the United States is a military threat (PDF) to their country.

To counter this, a new CFR Special Report says Washington should neutralize Chavez’s anti-American rhetoric by offering to cooperate with Venezuela on issues such as border security, energy, drugs, and public health.

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Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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