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Venezuela Opposition Candidates Win Caracas


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Looking into my crystal ball, I see Chavez wanting to rule Venezuela for life.


Looking deeper into my crystal ball; If he wants to run the country into the ground, and the vast majority of Venezuelans supporting him? Who are we to say no. <A Jaws type smile>








Venezuela Opposition Candidates Win Caracas, 3 States (Update2)


By Matthew Walter and Daniel Cancel


Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan opposition parties won races for mayor of Caracas and governor in at least three states, beating President Hugo Chavez’s candidates four years after his coalition took near total control of regional governments.


Chavez’s Venezuelan United Socialist Party, or PSUV, was upset by the opposition in Zulia and Miranda, the country’s two most populous states, and may lose two more states when final tallies are published, according to results announced by the National Elections Board. The president, whose candidates won 21 out of 23 state elections in 2004, still controls 17 governorships.


“We’re committed to this city and to the most poor,” Caracas mayor-elect and opposition leader Antonio Ledezma said after hearing the results. “To the president of the republic I have a message: You and I have many differences, but I invite the president to work with us to save Caracas.”


The opposition’s wins today are a blow to Chavez’s drive to centralize control of the oil-exporting country. While the president remains popular among poor voters, accelerating inflation, rising crime and a plunge in oil prices have caused voters to question his socialist political agenda.


Last year voters rejected his proposal to eliminate presidential term limits, and opposition parties expect Chavez to try make a second run at changing rules that will force him to step down in 2013.


Test of Support


The country’s 16.9 million registered voters cast ballots to elect 603 posts yesterday, including 22 of the country’s 23 state governors and 326 top municipal officials.


Elections regulator Tibisay Lucena said results for two remaining states, Carabobo and Tachira, will be published later. The opposition candidate in Carabobo, Henrique Salas Feo, claimed victory in a speech broadcast by Globovision.


Chavez called yesterday’s elections a test of support for his presidency, and campaigned almost daily over the past month for his party’s candidates to head off a loss like the national referendum last December, his first electoral defeat since taking office in 1999.


Chavez said that his socialist party’s wins in a majority of states show that he still has the support of most Venezuelans.


“I recognize the adversary’s triumph,” he said in comments broadcast by state television. “Of course we would have liked to win every governorship, but this was a great victory.”


Stage for Conflict


Today’s wins for the opposition in a handful of the country’s most populous states and its largest city set the stage for increased conflict with the president. Opposition parties have been marginalized since Chavez’s coalition nearly swept regional elections in 2004 and won almost every seat in the National Assembly in 2005.


During the election campaign this year, Chavez threatened to suspend funding for development projects where opposition candidates win.


“The worst scenario is something like Bolivia, where Chavez simply decides to mistreat the political leadership that gets elected from the opposition and increase the level of confrontation,” said Javier Corrales, associate professor of political science at Amherst College. “He has threatened to use not just economic strangulation but also carry out military plans against these leaderships.”


Chavez regularly accuses opposition parties of trying to overthrow him, and he survived a brief coup in 2002 and a national strike in 2003.


Ledezma said he’ll make crime reduction a priority as mayor of greater Caracas. Caracas’s homicide rate jumped to 130 per 100,000 people last year, a 47 percent increase from 2005, according to government data compiled by the Central University of Venezuela’s Center for Peace.


Henrique Capriles-Radonski, the opposition governor-elect in Miranda state, said he’s willing to work with Chavez


“Here we have new authorities that are willing to work with our people with the goal of improving peoples’ lives,” he said. “The government should know that we didn’t come to argue, but to work.”


To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Walter in Caracas at mwalter4@bloomberg.net; Daniel Cancel in Caracas at dcancel@bloomberg.net.


Last Updated: November 24, 2008 02:19 EST

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