Caracas, Venezuela - On Sunday, 8,044,106 voters in Venezuela granted incumbent President Hugo Chávez a fourth consecutive term in the nation’s highest political office. The latest official numbers indicate an unquestionable victory for Chávez, who won 55 percent of the votes and all but two of 24 states.
The results extend Chávez’ mandate until 2019. By then he will have governed the country for nearly two decades and will have the possibility of running for yet another six-year term as president.
Chávez’ main opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski, obtained 44 percent of the votes, falling more than 10 percentage points behind Chávez despite obtaining a record 6,461,612 votes for the Venezuelan opposition.
The margin of difference between the two candidates (1,582,494 votes, as of Monday evening) was larger than expected. Leading up to Election Day, most polls—beyond their disparate projections—foresaw a tightly contested election and gave Capriles a decent shot at obtaining the presidency. Sunday’s results upset those predictions, drawing a new map of a country’s political make-up that will keep analysts writing for months to come.
A record voter participation rate (81 percent) points both to the perceived importance of Sunday’s electoral contest among Venezuelans and to the highly politicized voter population. There was no big surprise there, however: this presidential election was expected to draw a massive number of voters.
From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
Venezuelan Opposition Agrees to Back One Candidate
Members in the Venezuelan opposition umbrella group known as the Coalition for Democratic United (MUD) signed a pact Monday agreeing to present a united front against President Hugo Chávez in next year’s presidential election. The pact states they will recognize the winner of the February 12 primary as the sole candidate of the MUD. The MUD also asked the Venezuelan Electoral Council that international observers from the OAS, UN, EU, Mercosur, and Unasur be invited to monitor the vote.
Read an AS/COA Online News Analysis about the Venezuelan opposition’s decision to back one candidate.
Bolivian Ministers Resign over Rainforest Highway Controversy
As Bloggings by Boz notes, some 20 social movements in eight Bolivian departments aligned with indigenous protests against construction of a highway through the country’s rainforest. The Brazil-funded highway would connect the northeast of Bolivia with northern Chile and run through the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (known by its Spanish acronym TIPNIS). With the government of Evo Morales facing criticism over police action against the protesters, the interior and defense ministers are among officials to resign over the controversy. Morales suspended construction of the TIPNIS project; its fate will be decided in a referendum held in two Bolivian departments.
An AS/COA News Analysis offers background on the TIPNIS highway protests.
Bolivia in Focus
The Fall 2011 issue of Harvard’s ReVista focuses on Bolivia, taking a look in particular at changes in the country since current President Evo Morales took office. Topics explored include economics and development, education, political processes, natural resources, and different aspects of Bolivian identity.