Hugo Chavez has been in President of Venezuela since 1999, and has become a fixture of the international scene for his populist, anti-American policies. But this weekend that could change.Henrique Capriles, the 40-year-old candidate of the centre right Justice First party, has surprised many by giving Chavez a real run for his money. His youth is likely to be a key asset — 58-year-old Chavez is suffering from cancer, but little is known about his exact state of health (there are some reports in Venezuelan media that he cannot walk far and is relying on steroids for the campaign trail).
Over at Foreign Policy, Venezuela-based journalist Peter Wilson writes a long article looking at the odds. Ultimately, he says, it will probably come down to who can mobilize their base yet:
Up to 80 per cent of Venezuela’s eligible voters are expected to turn out on Sunday. Chávez and his party have sent patrols of supporters throughout the country to drum up support from voters. Capriles and his followers have similarly mobilized. Like in the United States, a close election may be decided by the two candidates’ respective ground games.
And if Chavez really does lose power after 18 years? “No matter what the outcome, there is a real risk of post-election violence, especially if the vote is close,” Wilson writes. defence Minister Henry Rangel Silva has already said the military would not recognise a victory by Capriles, and Chavez’s brother hinted at an armed struggle to keep the current government in power.