Is Chavez on his way to dictatorship?

February 23, 2009

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday won a referendum eliminating term limits opening a way for him run again as president in 2012 and possibly for many years to come.

There are mixed feelings across the globe towards Chavez, some love him and others hate him.

Some analysts believe that Chavez is on his way to become the next dictator in history after finally getting a grip of this long-sought victory and going forward with the vision of implementing his socialist-inspired visions for the country.

María Corina Machado, the leader of Súmate, an election-monitoring group here that is critical of Mr. Chávez’s government, said, “This was a victory imposed by the abuse of state power,” the New York Times reported.

“This should not be seen as a defeat but as a national challenge,” she said, citing elections next year for the National Assembly. Nevertheless, she did not significantly dispute the results, the paper reported.

“Even though Chávez has been mainly successful in aiding the poor of Venezuela while decreasing the overall poverty rate to less than one third of the population, he has been aggressively criticized for his inability to significantly reduce the country´s reliance on oil revenue and faulted for the nationalization of numerous private businesses, which seemed to be not worth the effort,” said Washington-based think tank, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, in a recent report, the Latin America press reported.

Other analysts however tend to disagree. Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington D.C. said, “He is a president democratically elected by his people.”

Weisbrot in a 2007 report titled “Venezuela is not Florida” detailed the election process in Venezuela saying that is not like Florida, Ohio or any other U.S. City.

“Venezuelan voters mark their choice on a touch-screen machine, which then records the vote and prints out a paper receipt for the voter. The voter then deposits the vote in a ballot box. An extremely large random sample about 54 percent of the paper ballots are counted and compared with the electronic tally.”

“If the two counts match, then that is a pretty solid guarantee against electronic fraud. Any such fraud would have to rig the machines and stuff the ballot boxes to match them a trick that strains the imagination.”

Since the Chavez government started in 1998 the country’s poor have seen many positive changes using Venezuela’s oil wealth to fund social programs within Venezuela among others free food, access premium healthcare and free education.

According to the report by Weisbrot, headline inflation in for the year ended July 2008 averaged at 33.7 percent and even though it remains above average “while this rate of inflation is still much higher than the previous couple of years the considerable deceleration of inflation during 2008 does not appear to be cyclical,” the report said.

According to the referendum results the Venezuelan population seems divided, some are very happy with the outcome while others don’t see sense in a person ruling indefinitely. Whether he will continue leading Venezuela powerfully and providing continuous relief to the country’s poor remains something for the world to see in the years to come.