VENEZUELA'S CHAVEZ RUNS FOR RE-ELECTION
By NATALIE OBIKO PEARSON, Associated Press Writer August 12, 2005
- President Hugo Chavez declared his candidacy for re-election on Saturday with warnings that Washington
is trying to undermine December's presidential vote and destabilize Venezuela.
Chavez arrived punching
his fist in the air at the electoral council's headquarters in downtown Caracas,
where throngs of supporters from across the country formed a sea of red — the color of his political party.
"I am the candidate of the
revolution and without a doubt I am the candidate of the national majority, of those who continue transforming the country
and saving it from the capitalist quagmire," Chavez said.
Chavez, who says he's leading
a socialist revolution, faces a newly united opposition, with most rivals falling in behind a single candidate, the popular
Zulia state governor Manuel Rosales. Also running as something of a wild card is a popular comedian, Benjamin Rausseo, better
known in Venezuela as the "Count of Guacharo."
Chavez dismissed all the
other candidates as tools of the U.S.
government, which he frequently accuses of planning to invade. "All the candidates that until now have appeared are candidates
of the right, of the counterrevolution and, I'd even say, of the U.S.
empire," he said.
Accusing the opposition
of an "imperialist plan" to boycott the election and undermine the electoral process, he warned that he was preparing a social
and political "counterattack."
"You can be sure they'll
regret it," he said, without elaborating. Chavez has previously said that if opposition parties boycott the vote, he would
call a referendum on ending term limits — a move that could allow him to serve past 2012.
Government opponents accuse
Chavez of becoming increasingly authoritarian while failing to fight deep-seated problems in the country such as corruption,
crime and poverty.
Supporters, especially the
nation's poor, see Chavez as a hero who has used the country's oil wealth to fund social initiatives such as subsidized supermarkets
and health care and literacy programs.
Major opposition parties
are backing Rosales, one of the few opposition politicians to be re-elected as Chavez allies swept state governorships and
Venezuela's National Assembly. But polls
suggest an easy win Dec. 3 for Chavez, who has the support of a clear majority of Venezuelans.
Chavez was elected in 1998
and again to a six-year term in 2000 after the country's constitution was changed in a popularly elected assembly. And while
the current constitution bars more than two consecutive terms, the Supreme Court ruled Chavez could run again because his
initial election came when a different constitution was in effect.
The former paratrooper has
vowed to win 10 million votes in this country of 26 million and govern the world's fifth-largest oil exporter until 2013.