Chavez re-election ushers in new era
by Mai Hien
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been given another term in office to push forward policies focusing on the nation's poor that he described as a "Bolivarian Revolution" after winning the October 7 presidential election.
According to the National Electoral Council, President Chavez won the election with around 54.8 per cent of the vote, while opposition candidate Henrique Capriles garnered around 44.5 per cent.
The victory gives Chavez another six years to push forward the social programmes that he undertook over a decade ago.
"Venezuela will continue its march toward the democratic socialism of the 21st century," Chavez was quoted by AFP as telling thousands of supporters.
Leftist Latin American leaders cheered the re-election of President Chavez.
Chavez's new presidential term is a triumph for "all Latin American people who fight for dignity, sovereignty and the right to determine their own destiny," said Bolivia's Evo Morales.
Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner called Chavez's win a victory for all "South America and the Caribbean", while Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, an Chavez ally, tweeted the result was a "marvellous popular triumph in Venezuela".
As soon as the election results were announced, he offered an olive branch to the opposition.
"I want to include everybody, including sectors of the opposition," Chavez told supporters from the balcony of the presidential residence.
He also pledged to become a better president.
"There will not be any major changes in political direction. I think there will be a deepening and rationalisation of social programmes, mainly in the areas of health, housing, education and citizen participation in State activities," Venezuelan Ambassador to Viet Nam Jorge Rondon Uzcategui told Viet Nam News when asked about the possibility of policy changes following Chavez's re-election.
"In other words", he said,"the objectives at this stage will remain the same from a social aspect, and in political terms, Venezuela will be looking to establish a full democracy which is more vigorous, participative and leading than in the past. From an economic point of view, a more productive, diversified and modern model is needed to develop an economy that serves the people, not just a select few."
"In foreign policy, Venezuela will prioritise strengthening strategic bilateral alliances with Latin American countries as a base to stimulate subregional and regional union schemes.
The ambassador said: "President Hugo Chavez's latest victory is a response of the Venezuelan people to the fidelity and authenticity of its leader."
Analysts attributed Chavez's win in the presidential election to his social policies aimed at the poor.
Since 2003, the left-wing leader has used revenue from oil exports to implement social programmes. Under the so-called "Mission Boliviar", these programmes aim to distribute food at preferential prices, provide social welfare for the elderly, offer health insurance for millions of poor people, and exempt fees for university students who have financial problems.
These programmes have helped to improve social indicators in Venezuela.
The country has become the second Latin America country after Cuba to eliminate illiteracy.
According to the World Bank, per capital GDP increased from US$4,105 in 1999 to $10,810 in 2011.
From 1999-2010, Chavez's government invested US$330 billion in social programmes, and consequently, the poverty rate fell from 70 to 23.9 per cent and the number of people enjoying social welfare increased from 387,000 to 1.92 million people. Education and public health systems have also expanded to most of the country's cities and provinces.
His policies have been so successful that opposition candidate Capriles pledged that if he won the election, he would continue these missions.
The high election turnout of 80.94 per cent – the highest in the country's history – also proved that no one who took over the reigns could do a better job for the Venezuelan people.
Chavez's services to the country are already profound, but there are many challenges that he will have to overcome in the next six years.
"No doubt there are still many socio-economic problems that the Bolivarian Socialist Revolution has to solve, such as food independence, electricity, equitable distribution of national wealth, economic efficiency, the autonomous development of science and technology, and security," Ambassador Uzcategui said.
The major objectives of the Bolivarian Revolution were to find solutions to Venezuela's social problems while hampered by economic reasons beyond our control, mainly because of the crisis plaguing the industrialised world, he added.
A series of elections in the future also pose challenges to President Chavez. On December 16, Venezuelans will elect governors for the country's 23 states, and the mayor of Caracas.
Disappointed at winning just three of Venezuela's 24 states, Capriles and other leaders of the Democratic Unity coalition are likely to pull together to win more governorships.
There will be elections at district level in 2013 and in parliament in 2014. In addition, the Venezuelan constitution allows a referendum to be held midway through the presidential term to allow a confidence vote. President Chavez overcame such a vote in 2004, but if the opposition continues to push for a referendum, it will be held in 2016.
So far, Chavez and the United Socialist Party have won 12 out of 13 elections or referendums that have taken place, proving they are capable of handling the challenges that face them in the coming years. — VNS