Chavez opponents make gains
Mr. Chavez, a one-time military officer who was elected in 1998 and is expected to seek another term in 2012, has recovered from previous setbacks: his failed 1992 coup attempt, which landed him prison; the 2002 coup that briefly removed him from power; and his 2007 constitutional referendum that voters narrowly rejected.
“Despite his emotional bond with many Venezuelans, and the extent of his institutional control and manipulations, the deterioration in the country’s security and economic situation has just been too great, and it has hit Chavez’s main constituency — the very poor — the hardest,” Mr. Shifter said, adding that the “opposition now faces two critical tasks” — to “develop serious policy ideas to address a range of problems” and to “come up with an appealing leader who can effectively communicate a vision for a post-Chavez Venezuela that can appeal to enough Chavez supporters.”
He mentioned Ms. Machado, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and former Chacao Municipality Mayor Leopoldo Lopez as three potentially strong contenders.
President Obama and new Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, he said, “are far more pragmatic and will not play into Chavez’s hands and fall for his trademark provocations.”
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