The Popularity of Hugo Chavez
Thursday, June 3, 2004; Page A18
The May 26 editorial attacking Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that Mr. Chavez appointed members to the National Electoral Council, the body overseeing the recall. In fact, the members were appointed by Venezuela's supreme court, independent of the executive branch.
The editorial also expressed concern about the "intimidation" of voters by "government goon squads." Not only have no such incidents been documented, but the Carter Center has praised the administration for providing security at the polls.
Perhaps the most frustrating allegation was that the poor are worse off under Mr. Chavez than in the past. The opposite is true: The Chavez administration has doubled spending on health care for the poor and tripled spending on education. Infant mortality is down while life expectancy and literacy are at all-time highs.
In the May 26 editorial The Post wrote, "Polls consistently show that Mr. Chavez would lose the referendum -- less than 40 percent of the population supports his eccentric, quasi-authoritarian populism."
This is untrue. Polls suggest that whatever Venezuelans think of Mr. Chavez, his opponents are highly unpopular. In a nationwide survey conducted by the Indaga polling organization in January, 16 percent of voters supported Miranda state governor Enrique Mendoza; 12 percent supported Henrique Salas Romer, the former governor of the state of Carabobo; 8 percent went for Julio Borges, from the right-wing Primero Justicia party; and 4 percent were undecided. Mr. Chavez got 49 percent.
The Post also failed to inform its readers that to oust the president, the rules require more Venezuelans to vote against Mr. Chavez than voted for him in the prior election, which means that with 40 percent support, Mr. Chavez should win the recall handily.
Polls also show Mr. Chavez's popularity on the rise. Investment analysts at Bear Stearns Cos. issued a report in February that asserted, "Not only is President Chavez likely to finish his term in office, but recent polls suggest he has excellent chances to win reelection in the next presidential election, scheduled for 2006."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company