On December 3rd, the Venezuelan people re-elected President Hugo Chavez for an additional term of six years. Turnout was high and in another significant development, the united opposition garnered almost forty percent of the vote.
Though the elections have been recognized by the international community and the United States, international observer groups noted that during the run up to the campaign, there was intimidation of voters, in particular of government employees, and excessive use of state resources by the Chavez campaign.
President Chavez has vowed to further his government’s objective of establishing a socialist state. The opposition candidate has declared that he and his followers will claim their own space and will also voice their views on the future development of the country.
In his previous administration, the political space for civic and other groups narrowed and threats against press freedom grew. Efforts to restrict press freedom have been denounced by various groups, including the Inter American Press Association and Reporters without Borders. Foreign direct investment fell as business held off in a climate of increased uncertainty. Within the region, there was a backlash to interference by President Chavez in the domestic politics of other countries, notably Ecuador, Mexico, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and others.
Mr. Chavez is also facing a sharp upswing in crime within Venezuela, fueled in part by the dramatic increase in drugs transiting the country.
Now that the election is over, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the U.S. hopes to have a constructive relationship with the government of Venezuela:
"Our only concerns about President Chavez in terms of his government have been questions about whether or not the policies that he has pursued in Venezuela have actually advanced the cause of strengthening democratic institutions in that country. It's not a matter of whether or not a government happens to come from left or right or center, where they happen to be rated on the political spectrum. It's...the actions that they take on those areas of interest to us."
Mr. McCormack says the U.S. is ready to work with any country that governs democratically:
"We would like to be able to work with Venezuela across a full spectrum of various issues and we'll see if we're able to do that."
"The Venezuelan people have spoken in terms of who they are going to elect as their president," says State Department spokesman McCormack. He says the U.S. will work where it can "with this Venezuelan government on a positive agenda."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.