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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Venezuela Voters Turn Out in Huge Numbers

August 15, 2004
Voters turned out in huge numbers Sunday to decide whether to keep populist President Hugo Chavez in power or oust him and his social revolution that critics say has sidelined the middle class and fueled tensions between rich and poor. ... It was the first time in Venezuela's history that a referendum on cutting short a president's term in office has been held. The vote will determine whether the country continues with Chavez's social revolution, his centralizing of power in the presidency and close ties with Cuba — policies that have deeply divided the nation.

"This is the largest turnout I have ever seen," exclaimed former President Jimmy Carter, who was helping to monitor the vote. "There are thousands of people in line, waiting patiently and without any disturbance." ... Chavez pledged to respect the results "no matter what they are." ...

For the recall to succeed, more Venezuelans must vote against Chavez than the nearly 3.8 million who voted for him four years ago. Then new presidential elections must be held within 30 days, during which time Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel would head a transitional government. The constitution is unclear on whether Chavez could run as a candidate if a new election is held, as he has said he would do. The opposition coalition has yet to name a potential candidate. ... FR Reprint.

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