According to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, even media not directly controlled by the government have been reluctant to report critically on Mr. Chavez. Many voters, too, are intimidated by high-tech polling machines that read their fingerprints; polls show that they suspect their votes will not be secret. Those not motivated by fright might be lured by greed: The government has amassed a list of 3 million people it has promised new homes. There are about 12 million likely voters.
That Mr. Chavez is in danger of losing in spite of all this is testimony to the havoc he has wreaked in what was once Latin America’s richest country. At more than 20 percent, inflation is the highest in the region and is accompanied by chronic shortages of food, basic consumer goods and power. The country’s infrastructure is crumbling: Within the last two months an explosion at a state oil refinery killed 50 people, and a major highway bridge collapsed. Perhaps worst of all for average citizens, violent crime has become epidemic under Mr. Chavez. The murder rate, which has more than tripled, is one of the five highest in the world. Drug traffickers have made Venezuela a hub for shipments to the United States and Europe with the help of senior government officials, including the current defense minister.Chavez won his re-election campaign. Here's a giddy socialist take on the news:
The accomplishments of the Chavez regime over the past 13 years are undeniable. When he entered office, Chavez took command of an economy that had been ravaged by IMF structural adjustment plans that had devastated most of the welfare subsidies and social guarantees that had been built up by the progressive nationalist regimes of the 1970s. . . . [S]ince Chavez was elected President in 1999, unemployment has been cut in half – declining from 14% to 7%. Increased access to medical care, particularly through community clinics staffed by Cuban physicians, has led to a decline in infant mortality from 20 deaths per 1,000 live births to 13 deaths per 1,000. Per capita GDP has increased from $4,000 in 1999 to $10,000 today. And extreme poverty has declined from 23% of the population when Chavez entered office in 1999 to 8.5% today. . . . The election of right wing opposition candidate Henrique Capriles would have meant an immediate end to this process of social transformation. . . .I guess we'll see. Chavez is facing another contest that I doubt he'll win. Whatever path Venezuela takes will have to be without him, one way or another.