Latin American expert Justin Delacour explains the significance of the electoral defeat of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela:
I think Chavez’s defeat yesterday will encourage an introspection in the Chavez movement and a critical debate which is long overdue for them. Obviously errors were committed, otherwise the dramatic decline from 63 percent of the vote just 12 months ago in the presidential elections to 49 percent would be impossible to explain.
What hurt Chavez the most, I believe, is the lack of sufficient attention to concrete, tangible problems and an overemphasis on lofty ideals. I’m referring to issues that range from garbage collection and shortages of staples to corruption.
For instance, the Chavez government allocated large sums of money to worker cooperatives which were seen as an important step in the direction of what Chavez calls “twenty-first century socialism.” Some of the cooperatives have consolidated themselves and function as small enterprises many of them run by the poor. But a large number of them received generous funding in the form of start-up capital and then just folded and in some case the money was squandered. I believe that now the government and Chavez movement will be more inclined to work to establish mechanisms to ensure that the money is put to good use.
In short, the emphasis will be more on practical and effective measures and moving away from rhetoric which doesn’t work out in practice.
I think the same goes for foreign relations. Chavez’ s foreign policy had two aspects. The confrontation rhetoric and the agreements with other third-world countries designed to achieve diversity in commercial relations. The rhetoric tended to eclipse the concrete economic objectives of diversification. Chavez’s defeat yesterday may encourage him to tone down the rhetoric and put the emphasis on commercial agreements that benefit the nation’s economy.
Of course, if you’re the New Times Times editorial page, you’ll simply portray Chavez as a dictator and use terms like “strongman” to describe him. The Venezuelan leader is many things – and growing sizes of authoritarianism are highly concerning – but he was democratically elected many times.