Political Animal


October 05, 2012 12:29 PM Could Hugo Chavez Finally Lose?

By Ed Kilgore

I’m not any sort of expert on Latin American politics, much less the complicated landscape of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. But with elections on tap there Sunday, I was fascinated to read a backgrounder at TNR by Francisco Toro that suggest Chavez is in real danger of losing despite all his enormous (most of them state-provided) advantages. And the main reason, he argues, is that the opposition in Venezuela is finally being led not by a counter-revolutionary, but by a pol, Henrique Cabriles, who can credibly present himself as a logical successor to Chavez willing to clean up the messy excesses and corruption of his regime:

The 40-year old state governor has run a nearly flawless campaign: sidelining the opposition’s reactionary wing in favor of a much more moderate Social Democratic stance. Young, nimble and energetic, Capriles has spoken to working class Venezuelans in less urban parts of the country in their own language—certainly much more so than the more conservative leaders who led the opposition before him. Running on a record of achievement in his home state of Miranda, Capriles has capitalized on people’s growing day-to-day frustration with the dysfunctional chavista state, promising to keep its popular social programs while radically cracking down on the runaway waste, corruption and political sectarianism that hobble every chavista initiative.
It’s been a brilliantly executed campaign against a government that, for all its oil billions, has made one blunder after another on the trail. Chávez legendary common touch has been nowhere in sight. Instead he’s been campaigning on a platform top-heavy with distant abstractions about “building Bolivarian socialism of the 21st century in Venezuela as an alternative to destructive and savage capitalism,” “achieving equilibrium in the universe and guaranteeing planetary peace” and “preserving life on the planet and saving the human species.”

The wild-card in the election, it seems, could be Chavez’ obvious and admitted battle with cancer, which makes thoughts about a more competent successor unavoidable.

It will be worth watching over the weekend, along with the reaction of the regime if it seems to be losing.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on October 05, 2012 1:18 PM:

    I'm no great Chavez fan, but I will never forget when he appeared at the UN after W., and he said he could still smell the sulfer, since Satan had been there before him.

    I will remember him fondly for that, forever.

  • paul on October 05, 2012 1:38 PM:

    So has Cabriles actually supplanted the people who want to take Venezuela back to 1910, or is he just fronting for them? Because Romney says he wants to keep the good parts of Obamacare too, and we know how that will work out if he gets elected.

  • DJ on October 05, 2012 1:51 PM:

    Chávez has reached a dangerous point for a politician -- he truly believes the bullshit he spouts. Perhaps the Venezuelan electorate wants to hear more serious talk that he is now unable to give them.

  • Fritz Strand on October 06, 2012 9:20 AM:

    If there were ever another FDR elected in this country our corporate media, without a doubt, would give him their 'full Chavez' treatment.