Venezuela, Decision 2006

By Kayla Allen
The United States isn't the only country in the world with tumultuous elections. While the Democrats and Republicans were going at it in the US, Venezuelans braced themselves for their presidential elections, which promised to be eventful.
On Saturday, November 25th hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans showed their support for the leading presidential challenger, Manuel Rosales, stopping traffic on a main highway in the capital and vowing to vote the current president, Hugo Chavez out of office on December 3rd.
The crowd marched from different locations and converged on a highway shouting, "Dare to change!" and waiving their national flag. After reaching their destinations they continued their protest by dancing to Venezuelan folk music and chanting slogans against current president, Hugo Chavez. The size of the protest only furthered the belief that the election was going to be a tight one.
Divided along class lines, Venezuela has become increasingly polarized, with the wealthy backing incumbent, Rosales, the poor backing Chavez and the middle class being pulled in both directions. Rosales has warned that voting for Chavez again would be tantamount to voting for totalitarian government patterned after Castro's Cuba while Chavez has called Rosales a flunky of the US Empire.
Fraud had been a key topic for each candidate both making statements warning against the possibility with Chavez even threatening to shut down a couple local TV stations who he believed would try to sway the vote by reporting false polling results.
The loyalty of both candidates' followers had Venezuelans stocking up on necessities, fearful that the election's outcome might prompt street protests and violence.
In the end Chavez's loyal followers, those who have benefited from his policies favoring the poor, like turning Venezuela's oil (5th producer in the world) into education, healthcare and subsidized food and housing, outnumbered Rosales' supporters.
While there was much name-calling, fear and more than 125,000 soldiers and reservists deployed to safeguard the balloting, the violence that some feared never materialized.
With his victory Chavez took another opportunity to promise Venezuela an egalitarian society, extol socialism as "love" and to call his victory a blow against the devil, George Bush. These kinds of speeches are what have many fearing that even with all of Chavez's social reform that what he will succeed most in doing is dividing his own country even further.

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