Public Opinion In Venezuela Has Turned Against Hugo Chavez

As it turns out, the people of Venezuela apparently don’t want a dictator-for-life.

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has lost his lead eight days before a referendum on ending his term limit, an independent pollster said on Saturday, in a swing in voter sentiment against the Cuba ally.

Forty-nine percent of likely voters oppose Chavez’s proposed raft of constitutional changes to expand his powers, compared with 39 percent in favor, a survey by respected pollster Datanalisis showed.

Just weeks ago, Chavez had a 10-point lead for his proposed changes in the OPEC nation that must be approved in a referendum, the polling company said.

He’ll probably win anyway, given these rather ominous-sounding statements:

Despite the swing, company head Luis Vicente Leon said he did not rule out a comeback by the popular president.

Chavez has trounced the opposition at the polls on average once a year and can deploy a huge state-backed machinery to get out the vote, Leon said.

A huge, state-backed machinery to get out the vote.

Doesn’t sound very democratic, does it? How would we Americans feel if President Bush had used the FBI or some other government agency to herd voters to the polls? Hell, how do you think Chavez’s leftist supporters here in America would have felt about that?

And as innocuous as the term “get out the vote” seems, it’s likely that effort will include violence and intimidation. According to an NPR report last year, there are Chavez “foot soldiers” in Venezuela who control certain neighborhoods and mete out discipline to those criticizing Hugo.

Which, again, isn’t exactly democratic. In fact, this pretty much means that Chavez is a dictator. But hey, Jimmy Carter was willing to certify the elections that put him in power despite the rampant voter intimidation, so I guess it’s all good.

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