Tags: Chavez | Venezuela | populardecline

Chavez Faces Steady Decline in Popularity

Tuesday, 04 May 2010 08:30 AM

Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela — Not long ago, miner Emilio Campos counted himself among President Hugo Chavez's most ardent supporters. He was drawn to the fiery Venezuelan leader's concern for the poor, combative rhetoric attacking the country's elites and plan to unify this gritty industrial town's labor unions.

But the sharp decline in his standard of living over the last two years, government intimidation of his union and Chavez's failure to follow through on promises have pushed Campos into the opposition camp. Last month he faced down riot police to lead a union march demanding reforms.

"We all had a feeling that progress was coming," said Campos, a 49-year-old father of two. "But Chavez's plans have been a debacle and things have only gotten worse."

Campos personifies the disaffection gnawing at the leftist president's base of support: blue-collar workers. It's largely responsible for the slide in Chavez's approval rating to its lowest level in seven years, according to a survey published last month by pollsters Alfredo Keller and Associates of Caracas, the capital.

Chavez's decline in popularity has breathed new life into opposition candidates eyeing September's congressional elections. Although Chavez, now in his 12th year in office, has outmaneuvered them in the past, often by gaming the state machinery in his favor, candidates leveraging the discontent could capture up to half of the National Assembly seats this fall, analysts predict.

Chavistas now have almost complete control of the single-chamber parliament as a result of the opposition's boycott of the last elections in 2005.

Facing voter discontent in the past, Chavez "always rose above it," political scientist Jose Vicente Carrasquero said. In 2003, with polls showing support ebbing as a recall referendum approached, Chavez invented the "missions" — social programs that offered free medical care, discount groceries and adult education to the poor. Simultaneously, a voter registration drive added 2 million voters to his hard-core base, and he easily won the vote.

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Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela — Not long ago, miner Emilio Campos counted himself among President Hugo Chavez's most ardent supporters. He was drawn to the fiery Venezuelan leader's concern for the poor, combative rhetoric attacking the country's elites and plan to unify this gritty industrial town's l
Chavez,Venezuela,populardecline
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2010-30-04
Tuesday, 04 May 2010 08:30 AM
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