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'Chavez fatigue' challenges regime in Venezuela

May 7, 2010 | 12:59 pm

Venezuela energy crisis chavez fatigue

With Venezuela struggling against a faltering economy, mounting inflation, mandated energy blackouts, and maybe something being called "Chavez fatigue," could President Hugo Chavez be losing his natural constituency?

Blue collar workers are increasingly disaffected with Chavista policies, Chris Kraul finds in this report for The Times. The discontent is calling into question the staying power of the Chavez regime:

To understand the disaffection, visit the Campos home, where at midday on a recent weekend it was dark and sweltering. The reason: Puerto Ordaz was in the midst of a six-hour electricity blackout, part of nationwide emergency rationing Chavez put in place in January after the near-collapse of the country's hydropower system, a state of affairs critics blame on years of mismanagement.

Chavez at first blamed the electricity crisis on previous presidents, then on El Niño. In recent public addresses, he has ignored the power rationing altogether.

Campos doesn't have that luxury. Despite the lack of air conditioning, he was afraid to take his family out for a drive because traffic signals were down and the streets too hazardous.

Venezuela holds congressional elections in September, and opposition candidates are hoping to ride the Chavez discontent to gains in their ranks. (Chavez's approval rating has dropped to below 50%, The Washington Post notes.)

Here, an anti-Chavez blog reports that the bolivar, Venezuela's currency, recently rose past 8 to the U.S. dollar, and that inflation rose by 5.8% over just one month. "What else do you need to be told to be convinced that the Chavez economy policies have been a resounding failure?" the blogger asks.

Foreign Policy highlights a report released  this year by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that describes the weakening democratic freedoms in Venezuela. But it notes that the commission has not been allowed to visit the country since 2002. That forced investigators to base the report on interviews with people outside the country.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: People gather outside their homes during a blackout in the city of Maracaibo. Credit: Reuters, via The Guardian.

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