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World Citizen: Chávez Toys With Venezuelan Democracy

Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010

When then-Col. Hugo Chávez launched a military coup against the civilian government of Venezuela in 1992, he had not yet grasped the potential value of winning a democratic election. Luckily for Chávez, his coup attempt failed, and he survived to play the democracy game. Today, 12 years after winning his first election for what at the time was meant to be a single five-year presidential term, Chávez has become a master of the game, writing and rewriting the rules, and testing the willingness of his followers to believe they still live in a democratic country. There is no certainty, however, that Venezuelans will continue to accept that claim.

Just last week, Chávez obtained the right to rule by decree, allowing him to circumvent the opposition's ability to block him in the parliament. Now, at a time when Venezuela is struggling with a stubborn economic recession and a spiraling wave of violence, the Venezuelan people will find it much more difficult to believe their country is a democracy. Ultimately, that could pose a severe challenge to Chávez's plans to stay in power for the foreseeable future, because Venezuelans, a new poll reveals, care deeply about democratic values. ...

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