Populist Venezuelan President Triumphs Over Opponents in April 15 Recall Election
Interview with Gregory Wilpert, sociologist and journalist living in Caracas, conducted by Scott Harris
Having survived a failed 2002 coup attempt, crippling strikes and sporadic violence, Venezuela's populist president Hugo Chavez triumphed again on Aug. 15th as he decisively beat back an attempt to oust him from office in his nation's first-ever recall referendum. Despite a hard fought campaign waged against him by opposition groups made up of Venezuela's wealthy minority and business leaders backed by the Bush administration, the former paratrooper won the referendum by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin. Chavez's government received overwhelming support from the nation's poor majority, which has benefited from .7 billion in social spending obtained from oil profits.
Despite ratification of the election results by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Organization of American States Secretary General Cesar Gaviria, the opposition rejected the outcome, charging they had lost the referendum due to a "gigantic fraud." But the results of the referendum calmed concerns on the international oil market, that a defeat of Chavez could usher in a wave on instability in Venezuela, the world's fifth largest exporter of oil.
Chavez, who has now won two presidential elections and six referendums, will complete his term in office which ends in 2006. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Gregory Wilpert, a sociologist and journalist living in Caracas, who takes a look at Venezuela's referendum results and what the future may hold for Chavez and his opponents.
Read Gregory Wilpert's articles online at www.zmag.org. For more news from Venezuela, visit the English language website, www.venezuelanalysis.com
"After the Venezuela Referendum," by Toni Solo, ZMag.org, Aug. 18, 2004
"Carter Endorses Chavez Win in Venezuela," Associated Press, Aug. 16, 2004
"Chavez Declares Recall Victory With 58% Majority," by Patrick Markey, Reuters, Aug. 16, 2004
"International Observers Ratify Chávez's Triumph in Referendum," by the Inter Press Service, Aug. 16, 2004
"Why Hugo Chavez Won a Landslide Victory," by Medea Benjamin, by CommonDreams.org, Aug. 17, 2004