ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, December 3, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 27

Chavez promises a Socialist oil power, set for hurricane victory
CARACAS, Saturday, (AP) - Hugo Chavez has called George Bush the devil, allied himself with Iran and inserted himself into election races all over Latin America. He has poured Venezuela's oil wealth into uplifting the poor, and rivals Fidel Castro as a defiant voice of the left. Now, as he seeks another presidential term in an election Sunday, he is telling Venezuelans this is only the beginning of his effort to remake Venezuela as a socialist oil power.

A woman takes part in a Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's political rally in Caracas. AFP

Chavez predicts a ''hurricane'' victory that will secure a mandate for zero compromise on policies that inspire both adulation and despair. Having survived a coup, a recall referendum, a general strike and clashes with the Roman Catholic Church, business community and opposition media, he has entrenched his power and sharpened left-right divides beyond Venezuela's borders. His main challenger, tough-talking state governor Manuel Rosales, trailed far behind in an AP-Ipsos poll last month, but nonetheless has galvanized a fractured opposition movement of millions desperately hoping he can unseat Chavez.

''This is our last chance. This is the last time we can stop him from ruining this country,'' says Margarita Nunez, a 23-year-old university student in Caracas who firmly believes that Chavez seeks to preside over a one-man communist system like his Cuban mentor, Fidel Castro. ''If he wins, I have to find a way to leave, go somewhere,'' she said.

Conflict and contradiction have marked Chavez's rise from a boy who sold homemade desserts on the streets of Sabaneta, a dusty backwater in the western Venezuelan plains. Now 52, twice divorced with five children, he is Latin America's most forceful leader. His speeches brim with homespun stories of his humble origins, resonating with the many Venezuelans who approve of what he's done for the poor.

''Chavez is a good person. He remembers what it was like when the streets were full of mud and there were no schools,'' said Felicia Olivera, 70, who waited hours under a hot sun to hear Chavez speak in Sabaneta. ''That's why he helps us.'' Others see the former paratroop commander as a tyrant who has frittered away billions of dollars needed at home on pet projects overseas. They fear his vaguely worded plans for the future, and his promise that his rule until now has been only the beginning of his so-called Bolivarian Revolution, named for Simon Bolivar, who liberated much of Latin America from Spain.

''A new era will be born next Sunday,'' Chavez told a sea of supporters clad in Chavista red at another rally. ''There is no room in Venezuela for any other plan besides the Bolivarian Revolution.'' Chavez first came to prominence as a paratroop commander leading a failed coup attempt in 1992, and was elected six years later on a wave of discontent with Venezuela's corrupt political elite. He promises a new ''21st-century socialism'' which aims to redistribute the country's oil wealth to the poor, mainly through programmes that provide everything from subsidized food to cash benefits for single mothers.


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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.