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Populists in Venezuela, Argentina Not So Popular

Henrique Capriles, the biggest challenger to Hugo Chávez for the Venezuelan presidency, had a tricky time getting to his campaign rally last week. Fighting between rival supporters of the two candidates erupted when Chávez’s supporters cut off Capriles’s route from the airport to the rally. Capriles was then forced into a helicopter, followed by a motorboat ride from local fishermen, to circumvent the street battles.

He made it to the rally, slightly delayed, and promptly launched into an attack on Chávez, as the FT reports:

“It is him [Chavez], and I say this directly: it is you who wants this scenario, you who wants to spread fear, you who wants Venezuelans to continue fighting each other,” said Mr Capriles, addressing Venezuela’s socialist leader without using his name.

Chávez attempted to whip up his supporters by drudging up images of civil war if Capriles wins the presidency. The campaign is shaping up to be an ugly one, even by the standards of Chávez’s Venezuela.

Yet Venezuela is not the only country in Latin America with a fraught political scene: Argentina is witnessing its own political unrest as well. The FT has that story:

Tens of thousands of Argentines rallied in Buenos Aires and several other cities on Thursday night, packing streets in one of the biggest organised protests against the government of Cristina Fernández.

Ms Fernández’s residence in a northern suburb of the capital and the presidential Pink House in the city centre were both targets of the protesters. The demonstrators, who rallied peacefully after calls sent via social networking sites, voiced a litany of complaints, ranging from a rise in insecurity to a rejection of any constitutional changes that would enable her to run for a third term in office.

Still, both Chávez and Fernandez remain in control. For now. But more tumult in both countries appears likely.

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