Courtesy of Guillermo Esteves
On October 7, Venezuelans went to the polls in a critical election between President Hugo Chávez and former Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski. This election, the fourth time Chávez faced voters, was the closest race yet for the longstanding Venezuelan president.
Stay tuned to AQ Online for ongoing coverage. Read our latest election-related content below.
On This Page:
- October 9: The Challenges Ahead for Hugo Chávez (AQ Web Exclusive)
- October 9: Chávez’ Victory: A Country Divided (AQ Blog)
- October 9: Una victoria para Chávez, pero no para el chavismo (AQ in the News)
- October 8: Ganó Chávez, pero Capriles queda fortalecido (AQ blog)
- October 8: Hugo Chávez Defeats a United Opposition (AQ Daily Focus)
- October 7: Chávez Wins Election, CNE Reports (AQ Blog)
- October 7: Venezuelans Vote in London But Ballot Counting on Hold (AQ Blog)
- October 7: AQ Slideshow: Election Photos from the Unidad Educativa Santo Tomas de Aquino [and Other Voting Centers] in Caracas (AQ Web Exclusive)
- October 7: AQ Slideshow: Election Photos from the Colegio Eugenia Ravasco [and Other Voting Centers] in Caracas (AQ Web Exclusive)
- October 7: A Venezuelan Living in New York Returns for the Election (AQ Blog)
- October 7: Venezuelans Voting in Madrid (AQ Blog)
- October 6: Uma derrota de bolivariano deve mudar a região (AQ in the News)
- October 6: The Stage is Set for Venezuela’s Election (AQ Blog)
- October 6: Momentum for Capriles Heading to Election Day (AQ Blog)
- October 5: From Caracas. Mercosur and the Venezuela Elections (AQ Blog)
- October 5: Venezuelans Abroad: The Obstacle Course to Sunday’s Election (AQ Blog)
- October 5: Tensions Rise in Venezeula Ahead of Sunday’s Elections (AQ Daily Focus)
- October 5: Against Reinvigorated Opposition, Chávez Seeks Reelection in Venezuela (AS/COA Analysis)
- October 4: El preocupante silencio de la comunidad internacional ante Venezuela (AQ in the News)
- October 4: Electoral Legitimacy and Security Ahead of Venezuela’s Presidential Election (AQ Web Exclusive)
October 9, 2012
After Hugo Chávez convincingly won re-election on Sunday, the margin of victory—over 1.5 million votes, totaling over 10 percentage points—has stunned members of Venezuela’s opposition, leaving them searching for answers.
Some pointed to the Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council—CNE), which is controlled by chavistas and turned a blind eye to government abuses. Others pointed to the intimidation of public workers and beneficiaries of social programs. Yet another group simply interpreted the loss as a sign that the majority of Venezuelanswho support Chávez simply have a different set of values.
They are all mistaken. The story of Chávez’ victory is simpler: it is a love affair between a people and their leader—one who, in their eyes, makes their lives better thanks to his generous use of the nation’s petro-dollars.
It was always going to be nearly impossible to beat a president with the deepest pockets in the world, one who is revered by a majority of his countrymen with the fervor of a religious leader. Most in the opposition were riding on high hopes about the possibility that this could be overcome with a near-perfect campaign from Henrique Capriles Radonski.
The opposition was wrong.
October 9, 2012
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.
October 9, 2012
Con el 55.0% de los votos, este domingo Hugo Chávez ganó su cuarta reelección, extendiendo su plazo presidencial hasta el 2019 si su salud lo permite. El candidato de la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, Henrique Capriles, recibió el 44.4% del apoyo popular.
Pero esta vez la reelección del mandatario no significa una derrota total para la oposición. Chávez ganó con una ventaja de 20% o más en elecciones anteriores. Esta vez la oposición estuvo tan solo a casi 10% de alcanzar la victoria, una diferencia de aproximadamente un millón y medio de votos.
Esta elección presentó dos visiones distintas para el país: Chávez prometió la expansión de su revolución bolivariana; y Capriles prometió una dirección diferente y más parecida al modelo brasileño de inversión social a la par de crecimiento económico y reinserción en la economía mundial.
La elevada participation en esta elección (81%) muestra que los venezolanos aún creen en la posibilidad de un cambio. Sí, Chávez ganó, pero lo hizo usando todos los recursos del estado-el aparato mediático para divulgar su mensaje, la renta petrolera para financiar sus programas sociales, y la amenaza del despido para todo aquel empleado público que no apoye su gestión. Los 6.4 millones de personas que votaron por Capriles, lo hicieron por una visión y un proyecto ajenos al abuso de los poderes del Estado.
Pese al llanto y las caras largas de casi la mitad de los votantes, la jornada ha sido un hito sin precedentes que demostró la enorme vocación cívica y democrática de la sociedad venezolana. Muchos se agolparon a los centros de votación desde las 4 de la madrugada y las filas en muchos colegios electorales se hicieron “eternas” en horas de la mañana. La alegría, el positivismo y los mensajes de servidores públicos, políticos experimentados y líderes juveniles, que a través de la televisión y la radio repetían invitaciones a votar en paz, fueron la constante.
Destaca también la efectividad y la sencillez del sofisticado sistema de votación, aunque no por ello del proceso en general, que lució lento por cuenta de las varias instancias que había que superar para llegar finalmente a las mesas. De acuerdo con Federico Pinedo, diputado argentino del Partido Propuesta Republicana (PRO), que ejerció como observador internacional, el trámite de anotar el documento de identidad a la entrada de los centros de votación tuvo que ser levantado en la tarde—en muchos sitios—para agilizar la dinámica.
October 8, 2012
The Venezuelan electorate has chosen to give President Hugo Chávez another six-year mandate. Last night, the Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council—CNE) announced that with 90 percent of ballots counted, Chávez earned 54 percent of votes while challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski took in about 45 percent.
The CNE also announced that the participation rate of eligible voters was nearly 81 percent, one of the highest in recent history. However, not all votes were factored into the quick count. As AQ guest blogger Mariana Marval reported from London, “[CNE] changed the rules so that the votes from abroad will now not be counted at the same time as the votes in Venezuela.”
The uncounted votes nevertheless will not surpass Chávez’ large margin of victory. At a closing campaign rally in Caracas last week, Chávez vowed to redouble his socialist policies, stating, “We’ve laid the foundations of 21st-Century Socialism and […] we’ll launch the second socialist cycle, from 2013 to 2019, with much more strength.”
October 7, 2012
Caracas, Venezuela – At of 9:45pm (local) on Sunday an undisclosed number of voting centers across Venezuela had remained open for continued voting. These are centers that due to high voter turnout or to delays at the beginning of the day still have voters lined up outside their doors waiting to cast their ballot.
But now the results are in: the Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council—CNE) announced that Chávez won with 54.42 percent of the votes—a nearly 10 percentage point lead over Henrique Capriles who received 44.97 percent of the votes according to the first CNE report.
A wide array of minor irregularities have been reported in polling centers throughout the day in all corners of the country from technical malfunctions of the machines to isolated incidents of voter violence. Despite these reports, this historic day of elections has by all accounts been a smooth, civil and massively participatory democratic event.
October 7, 2012
London, England – The energy around the Consular Section of the Venezuelan Embassy in London is beyond expectations, with Venezuelan flags everywhere after an exciting day of voters coming out to express their hope for a new direction for the country. It is now midnight in London (7:00 pm EDT/ 6:30 pm in Caracas) and hundreds of Venezuelans are still here waiting to make sure that every vote cast is being fairly and accurately counted.
For me and many others, the day started at 7:00 am as I was responsible for conducting exit poll interviews. After eight hours of speaking with Venezuelan voters, the choice was clear: of 150 voters interviewed, all except for five people said they had voted for Henrique Capriles.
But even though the voting process was successful, the situation now is one of concern and anguish among voters. A notice from the Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council—CNE) changed the rules so that the votes from abroad will now not be counted at the same time as the votes in Venezuela. This new measure is of concern to London electors since that means that votes will now not be counted until the early morning. Unless we can stay up all night watching the ballot boxes, the ballots may not be subjected to uninterrupted third-party oversight.
October 7, 2012
Exclusive photos taken at around 11:00 am (local) at the electoral center at Unidad Educativa Santo Tomas de Aquino located in Campo Alegre on the east side of Caracas. The voting is rather calm and very orderly. The majority of the people who signed up at this center have voted already with many beginning to stand in line by 5:00 am. The area around this center is mainly pro-Capriles.
Later, photos were taken at the Unidad Educativa Santo Tomas de Villanueva voting center in Caracas, where opposition candidate Henrique Capriles cast his ballot.
All pictures taken October 7 by Laura Gonzalez.
October 7, 2012
Exclusive photos taken this morning of the polling station at Colegio Eugenia Ravascolocated on Avenida Principal de los Chorros in Caracas.
Additional photos taken this afternoon at the voting centers located at the Colegio Santa Gema and Instituto Universitario Tecnológico Americo Vespucio, both in Caracas.
All pictures taken October 7 by Romina Hendlin.
October 7, 2012
Caracas, Venezuela – Some Venezuelans have trouble explaining to their American counterparts what the country is currently going through. The reason, they say, is that some Americans take for granted a political system that guarantees rights such as freedom of speech. Americans seem to have no trouble identifying the antithesis of their democracy: outright dictatorships like the regime in North Korea. But they have a harder time understanding the nature of governments who fall in the gray area of neither democracy nor dictatorship.
Fear over the continued direction of Venezuela and the opportunity to observe the domestic voting process at home is why I traveled from New York City to Caracas yesterday, arriving after a long journey that involved multiple flight delays. For me, like other Venezuelans who are living abroad, this election is an historic opportunity to begin to change the unfortunate direction of our country.
October 7, 2012
Madrid, Spain – Today is an incredibly important day for Venezuelans: we have to choose between two contrasting proposals for our country’s future. On one side we have Twenty-First Century Socialism. On the other, a democratic candidate that has managed to unite the different groups among the opposition, for the first time in 14 years. It is a day that represents hope of change, progress and a better Venezuela for supporters of both parties. I am proud to say I participated, from thousands of miles away and in a different time zone.
Madrid is the world’s second-largest voting center outside of Venezuela, with 7,600 people registered to vote and an expectation that 5,500 Venezuelans will actually vote here today. Despite all the confusion that has surrounded the elections, organization in Madrid has proven to be smooth, with fast and efficient voting tables. The Comando Exterior Venezuela (CEV) even organized a group of volunteers to stand guard at the Venezuelan consulate in Madrid to guide uninformed people to the site where the voting is being held. What impressed me the most is voters’ active, happy and energetic participation—all making their best efforts to feel as if they were in Venezuelan soil.
October 6, 2012
O resultado das eleições na Venezuela não determinará apenas a trajetória do país nos próximos seis anos. Terá também grandes implicações para a América Latina. No domingo, o “Socialismo do século 21” do presidente Hugo Chávez enfrentará a visão do opositor Henrique Capriles, inspirada no modelo do Brasil, que tem como objetivo uma economia com base no mercado e uma forte política de bem-estar social. Enquanto Capriles promete abrandar a ingerência do Estado na economia Chávez prometeu dobrar seu projeto econômico, afirmando que lançará o “segundo ciclo socialista, de 2013 a 2019, com muito mais força”.
Chávez tem muito dinheiro para distribuir: a Venezuela localiza-se sobre as maiores reservas de petróleo do mundo, segundo a Organização dos Países Exportadores de Petróleo (Opep). O recurso representa 95% das exportações do país. Não só a estatal Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) contribuiu com US$ 61,4 bilhões para programas de desenvolvimento social interno, entre 2004 e 2010, como Chávez trata a companhia como um banco particular para executar seus objetivos em política externa.
Ele vende petróleo a preços mais baixos para a aliança PetroCaribe de 18 nações do Caribe e América Central, que ajudou a fundar em 2005. Diariamente, fornece cem mil barris de petróleo somente a Cuba. Em 2011, Chávez fez um acordo com a China de troca de petróleo por empréstimos, que aumentou consideravelmente a dívida da Venezuela com a República Popular. Em dezembro de 2011, esse número chegou a US$ 28 bilhões.
Tudo isto se deu às custas de uma frágil situação interna em que predominam a pobreza, a escassez de alimentos e a criminalidade.Capriles disse em seu discurso de encerramento que Chávez “deu a outros países recursos que pertencem a vocês e acendeu luzes no exterior enquanto aqui estamos às escuras”, um sinal de que pretende encerrar o envolvimento da Venezuela na PetroCaribe.
October 6, 2012
Caracas, Venezuela – The presidential campaign is officially over as of Thursday night at 11:59p.m., as dictated by the law here in Venezuela. After the chaos and euphoria that spread through Caracas in the days leading up to the close of the campaigns, a tense and eerie calm reigns over the city.
Across the country, 13,683 polling centers are now ready to receive the millions of eager voters that will stand in line from 6:00a.m. onward tomorrow to cast their ballots. Local authorities have asked voters to refrain from wearing political paraphernalia during the voting process, both to ensure their compliance with electoral law and to mitigate tensions that may arise at the centers.
Despite a few minor setbacks, the preparation for tomorrow’s election unwound with calm and order. The only major incident occurred in the central state of Carabobo, where the authorities had to replace 47 voting machines that malfunctioned due to power shortages in the region.
October 6, 2012
Caracas, Venezuela – We are just hours away from Venezuela’s Election Day and it is time to relax, sit tight and wait to see if the polls are finally right. The last two weeks of the campaign were crucial for both candidates. However it was Henrique Capriles who took the greatest advantage of the end of the campaign by making his youth and his energy pillars of the visits he made to each state.
Two weeks ago President Hugo Chávez still had yet to visit half of the states in the country as a candidate. That is lot to say given that the campaign has been in progress since July. Although he tried to keep up with Capriles’ pace, speeches in the states where Chávez did visit were no longer than 30 minutes—clear signs of his weak health. Furthermore, his strategy as a speaker oddly shifted as well, deciding to emphasize an acknowledgement of his mistakes and the fact that the revolution is far more important than problems such as insecurity and high inflation.
October 5, 2012
The soon-to-close electoral race for the presidency of Venezuela between Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Henrique Capriles Radonski will certainly be remembered as one of the most fascinating campaign periods in this country’s recent political history.
On one hand, the race has been silently colored by the uncertainty that surrounds Chávez’ health. On the other, it has been marked by a series of unpredictable events that have intensified a complex and divisive political climate.
But in the midst of this bitterly-fought campaign, Chávez scored what should have been a major political victory for his administration: on July 31, he managed to secure Venezuela’s formal admission to Mercosur, the largest trading bloc in South America. Venezuela has already sent its first “Mercosur shipment” to Uruguay, but the bulk of future commerce will follow a set of rules that are currently being negotiated.
Despite its potential importance for Venezuela’s economic future, the electoral impact of Venezuela’s admission to Mercosur was surprisingly insignificant. The news was splashed across headlines and became the topic of opinion pieces and conversations. But Venezuela’s formal admission to Mercosur did not tangibly represent a major boost for Chávez’ candidacy. Why might this have been the case?
October 5, 2012
Cindy is Venezuelan and lives in Vietnam. Her husband’s career as a pilot took them to Ho Chi Minh, two and a half hours away from the nearest Venezuelan embassy. For Cindy and her husband, distance is not a restriction to vote in Sunday’s election. Their problem is their official status overseas: with only a tourist visa, they lack legal status abroad—signaling their fate according to Venezuelan law.
Article 124 of the Ley Orgánica de Procesos Electorales (Organic Electoral Processes Law) establishes that those who wish to register to vote abroad must have a proof of residence or “any other element that denotes the legality of their permanence outside of Venezuela”. However, requirements to register have varied from consulate to consulate. Some ask for birth certificates to process registration, others require passports and identification cards issued by the country of residence. As a result, thousands of Venezuelans like Cindy will not be able to exercise their democratic right abroad.
On October 7, voters will cast their ballot at the nearest Venezuelan foreign mission to re-elect President Hugo Chávez or vote in former Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski. To date, 124 of the 127 possible voting centers have begun to get ready for Sunday’s vote. Damascus, Syria, Tel Aviv, Israel, and Asunción, Paraguay, are the exceptions due to political instability or a hiatus in diplomatic relations with Venezuela.
But the biggest obstacle for Venezuelans living outside the country was the closure of the largest voting center abroad. On January 8, 2012, the United States expelled Livia Acosta Noguera, Venezuela’s consul general in Miami. Five days later, Chávez ordered an “administrative close” of the consulate.
With 19,542 registered voters, the voting center in Miami was bigger than any other—including any voting center inside Venezuela itself. In June, however, Venezuela’s electoral authority, the Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council—CNE), announced that registrants in Miami could still vote. Except there was one not-so-small caveat: the closest place to do so was at the voting center in New Orleans, Louisiana—two hours away by air and 20 hours away by bus.
October 5, 2012
Electoral law prohibits opinion polls from being published four days ahead of the Venezuelan elections, but the most recent polling results reveal markedly different figures. Datanalisis has Chávez polling at 49 percent compared to Capriles’ 39 percent, while Consultores 21 poll shows Capriles in the lead with 47.7 percent versus Chávez’ 45.9 percent.
Despite assurances to the contrary from the Chávez-dominated National Electoral Council, some suspect their ballots won’t be kept confidential. This is due in part to la Lista de Tascón, a private list of some 2 million people who had supported a 2004 plebiscite against President Chávez that was later publicly released by Venezuelan deputy Luis Tascón. Many state employees whose names appeared on the list were subsequently dismissed. Maribel Rodríguez, a 42-year-old homemaker who lives in the poor neighborhood of Catia west of the capital said, “My husband tells me he is obliged to vote for Chávez because he works with the government. What sort of democracy do we have?” The Venezuelan government currently employs at least 2.4 million people.
Motivated by Chavez’ daily assertions that his opponent will remove social benefits such as medical treatment, subsidized food and other components that have provided relief to the underprivileged, some citizens fear violence might occur if the incumbent loses the election. Government officials are fearful of losing their prominent position of power, facing criminal investigations or losing influence overnight if their patron is voted out of office.
*By Rachel Glickhouse. This post originally appeared on AS/COA Online.
October 5, 2012
Venezuelans vote on Sunday in a critical election that could see another six-year term for President Hugo Chávez or an end to his nearly 14 years in power. Former Miranda state governor and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles of the Coalition for Democratic Unity (MUD) faces Chávez, of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in what could prove to be a tight race. There are no runoff elections; the winning candidate, who takes office in January 2013, is the one with the largest number of votes. Polls vary widely in terms of reliability and results; some polls give Chávez a double-digit lead while a September Consultores 21 poll showed Capriles with nearly 5-point advantage. While a Chávez victory would guarantee continuation of the president’s “Bolivarian revolution,” Capriles aims to follow a Brazilian model, mixing social programs with private sector development.
In spite of the conflicting polls, analysts say that for the first time, Chávez faces a formidable challenger. Inaki Sagarzazu, a Venezuelan professor of politics who analyzes the polls, says Chávez has just under 50 percent of the vote as Capriles gains ground. “We’re looking at a long night on October 7 because things look closer than polls or the government make it seem,” he told CNN. In an interview with AS/COA, Consultores 21 President Luis Christiansen noted that the election seems balanced between the two candidates, testament to Capriles’ campaign strategy. “With a unified, rejuvenated and optimistic opposition and his Bolivarian revolution showing real cracks, President Chávez is facing his first serious electoral challenge since 1998,” writes AS/COA’s Christopher Sabatini for the Americas Quarterly blog.
Top issues for voters include security and the economy. Venezuela has the world’s fourth-highest homicide rate, and the country saw nearly 16,000 kidnappings last year. Roberto Briceño-León of the Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia told Fox News Latino that “the government is confused as to how to respond to the upswing in crime…they want to use new solutions, but they just aren’t working.” Poverty levels dropped dramatically since Chávez first entered office, and have been reduced by half. Still, poverty has remained persistent at around 27 percent for the last five years. Youth unemployment rose to 18.7 percent in July, 2 points higher than the previous year. (By comparison, Brazil’s youth unemployment rate stands at around 15 percent.) Meanwhile, inflation increased by over 1,400 percent since 1999. Due to declining agricultural production, the country must import 70 percent of the food products it consumes, sometimes leading to food shortages.
October 4, 2012
A escasos días de las votaciones los observadores electorales expresan graves preocupaciones: acceso desigual a los medios de comunicación por parte del candidato de oposición; favoritismo de la prensa por el titular del cargo; campañas de desprestigio contra la oposición, y el uso de los recursos del Estado para obtener ventajas electorales. ¿Podrían estos valerosos observadores finalmente estar denunciando los abusos del Presidente Hugo Chávez y de su gobierno contra su rival Henrique Capriles Radonski, en la recta final de las elecciones venezolanas?
Tristemente, no. Estos alegatos se hicieron en el año 2000 contra el entonces Presidente peruano Alberto Fujimori, en medio de su campaña por obtener un tercero y constitucionalmente discutible período de gobierno. A pesar de una colección de abusos similares a aquellos observados en el 2000, la comunidad internacional ha permanecido callada sobre Venezuela.
El contraste entre el Perú del 2000 y la Venezuela de hoy, es un deprimente testimonio sobre el punto al que los estándares por elecciones libres y justas han caído, así como la nueva tolerancia de la comunidad internacional por los autócratas que cínicamente argumentan motivos de soberanía, para evitar el escrutinio sobre la violación de derechos humanos y democráticos fundamentales.
Con una unificada, rejuvenecida y optimista oposición, y su Revolución Bolivariana mostrando grietas reales, el Presidente Chávez está enfrentando su primer desafío electoral serio desde 1998. El carisma de Chávez puede ser todavía un atractivo fuerte entre los segmentos más pobres del electorado que conforma su base chavista, pero un creciente segmento de votantes sigue poco convencido de que su revolución está dando resultados positivos.
October 4, 2012
Late last week, Venezuelan presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski released a video with his final appeal to voters. Looking straight at the camera, the former governor of Miranda state addressed the fears that prevent some Venezuelans from supporting him fully: being fired from government jobs; being passed over for a social program; or being banned from public-housing waiting lists.
These fears reflect the general state of anxiety Venezuelans face as they head to the polls this Sunday, October 7. Rarely have the words “the most important election in our lifetime” been as true as they are for this contest. The nation faces a choice between the definitive implementation of President Hugo Chávez’ “Twenty-First Century Socialism,” and a path that most would consider a return to mainstream Latin American politics.
Faced with a well-known, charismatic incumbent who enjoys practically limitless campaign funds, this election should—on paper—be a landslide for Chávez. That most polls show it is close, with some even showing Capriles ahead, is a tribute to the challenger’s energy and unerring message discipline, as well as the Chávez administration’s failure to address soaring crime and an endless electricity crisis.
One of the main fears in the minds of Venezuelan voters is the fact that the electoral authority, the Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council—CNE), is clearly partial to the government. Voting in Venezuela is machine-based, and voters must unlock the machines by placing their hands on a fingerprint reader, which ensures that they only vote once. Even though the vote itself is separate from the identification portion, and in spite of the opposition’s claims that it has audited the technology thoroughly, there are fears that the secrecy of the vote is not assured.
The opposition leadership, however, insists that the process is tamper-free. They point to the fact that they have won other elections using this technology in the past. They are also working hard to assure its voters that voting centers—particularly those in rural areas that have shown bizarre voting patterns in the past—are all stocked with opposition eyewitnesses.