Following a strategy similar to that pursued by President Obama, Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez won reelection by a reported ten points. His opponent, Henrique Capriles, has conceded. Frank Bajak and Ian James of Associated Press write:
Chavez will now have a freer hand to push for an even bigger state role in the economy, as he pledged during the campaign, and to continue populist programs. He's also likely to further limit dissent and deepen friendships with U.S. rivals.
Chavez spent heavily in the months before the vote, building public housing and bankrolling expanded social programs.
"I think he just cranked up the patronage machine and unleashed a spending orgy," said Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue think tank.
But Shifter also noted the affinity and gratefulness Venezuela's poor feel for Chavez. "Despite his illness, I still think he retains a strong emotional connection with a lot of Venezuelans that I think were not prepared to vote against him."
Venezuela has a majority that is poor, and they want the expropriation and redistribution that Chavez has carried out and will now accelerate. President Obama is working toward the point where America has a majority that is poor, and he certainly has showered contracts, subsidies, loan guarantees, and other benefits on his supporters. But i8t remains to be seen iof he can pull off the same electoral magiuc as did Chavez.
For the record, Chavez has endorsed Obama.