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Venezuela’s Revolution in Crisis


This weekend, Hugo Chavez’s chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro, won Venezuela’s first election since Chavez’s death—just barely. As Reuters reports, Maduro won with 50.7 percent of the vote over Henrique Capriles’ 49.1 percent, a difference of just 235,000 votes in an election where almost 14.8 million ballots were cast.

Maduro, a young and far less charismatic leader than his predecessor, inherits a country in disarray. “Within a year, he’s going to have real trouble,” a Venezuelan economist told the WSJ. Venezuela’s budget shortfall is 15 percent of GDP, and Chavez, who fashioned himself as a champion of the poor and disadvantaged, nevertheless left them struggling with widespread shortages of basic staples like milk and corn flour. “Making matters worse,” reports the WSJ, “rates of violent crime are among the worst in the world, power outages regularly plunge parts of the country into darkness, the state oil industry is suffering from a lack of investment and corruption is widely seen as worsening.” All this despite Venezuela’s having one of the largest proven oil reserves in the world.

As an angry Capriles, who demanded a vote recount, said afterward: “Mr. Maduro, you were the loser…. This system is collapsing, it’s like a castle of sand—touch it and it falls.” We would hasten to add that if ever there was to be rampant vote-rigging in an election, it would have been in this one. The fact that the results were nevertheless so close would seem to indicate that Mr. Capriles is right about the fragility of Maduro’s rule.

[Photo of Hugo Chavez courtesy Getty Images]

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