Venezuela's Election: The Fix Is In

Hemisphere Focus

Some 19 million Venezuelan voters will be called to the polls on October 7 to elect a president for a new six-year term.  It has been portrayed by the media as a David and Goliath contest between challenger Henrique Capriles, a telegenic 40-year old former mayor and governor of Miranda state, and President Hugo Chávez, first elected in 1998 on a platform to clean up corruption, but whose 13 years in power have come to symbolize the term.  To be sure, there are five other candidates, but none are as popular as Chávez and Capriles.

Toward any other country of 28 million people, there might not be a heightened interest.  However, Venezuela is home to the world's largest oil reserves besides Saudi Arabia; the current president has changed the constitution and laws to promote his longevity in power and has adopted a policy of hostility toward the United States, while cementing relations with regimes in Cuba, North Korea, and particularly Iran.  And there is the question of the president's health.  Chávez has reportedly had surgery over the past year to remove cancerous lesions in his pelvis.  Though he says he is cured, few know the real story.

Stephen Johnson