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September 17, 2012 | by  | in News |
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World Watch

SPECULATING ON HUGO CHÁVEZ’ LAST STAND

Although the Latin American nation of Venezuela is most well known for the number of times it has won Miss World, all eyes are on the nation’s upcoming presidential election which could erupt in a battle for democracy and oil.

The election set for October 7 will be a battle between Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez, and rival political young-gun Henrique Capriles.

Chávez was first elected in 1998 on a populist platform, carrying out a number of steps that he says are reshaping his country’s economy to match his vision of “21st century socialism.”

Now 57, he runs a tight state-controlled ship and has nationalised telephone, electricity and media companies, while ‘playing God’ in the nation’s economy.

But what makes the West nervous is Chávez’s power to counter American influence in the region by seizing oil assets from American and European energy companies. It happened, and they were pretty upset.

Some critics also argue that despite the country’s oil wealth, Chávez’s autocratic leadership has made no major impact on the chronic poverty, unemployment, and crime that plagues Venezuela.

Yet Chávez still retains support from the poverty-stricken masses and state-owned company employees who feel that their jobs depend on Chávez remaining president,

despite a recent cancer scare that raised concerns about his ability to lead.

Motorbike-riding 39-year-old opposition candidate Capriles, who jokingly asked the wife of another presidential hopeful to find him a girlfriend, has received more support than any other candidate that has attempted to break the Chávez rule. The young lawyer tweeted that his campaign is a “countdown to opening the door to the future.”

Capriles’ policies are “centrist” and he has emphasised the need for better education to beat Venezuela’s high levels of crime.

The world is watching this election closely, which is widely viewed as referendum on the socialist hold of Venezuela that has lasted more than 13 years.

If Chávez uses dirty tactics to win the election, it may trigger major political crisis that pits countries seeking to restore democracy in Venezuela against those who support Chávez.

The United States and European Union are biting their nails about the impact this would have on their access to Venezuelan oil resources.

So while Chávez sings and dances on his own television show Aló Presidente and hangs out with American actor Sean Penn on his campaign trail, the world is watching with bated breath to see what will happen in October.

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