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Venezuela’s Elections: Within Stealing Distance

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the upcoming elections in Venezuela, where incumbent Hugo Chavez is fighting off the young upstart Henrique Capriles in an election which could have profound implications not just for Venezuela, but for the region as a whole. We wondered what Capriles’ chances are, given Chavez’ tendencies to, uh, tip the scales in his favor when possible:

I remember I once asked Robert Strauss, then US ambassador to Russia, whether Boris Yeltsin would be able to catch up with his opponent in a re-election campaign where Yeltsin started out a considerable distance behind. “Well,” said the ambassador in his strong Texan accent, “I know ol’ Boris pretty well, and all he has to do is to get within what we in Texas call ‘stealing distance.’ And I think Boris can do that.”

Well the elections are tomorrow and the race is close—well within stealing distance—with several polls showing the candidates in a dead heat. We certainly wish Capriles all the best, and hope Chavez and his supporters will allow for a free and fair election come what may. But we’re not fooling ourselves: even should Mr. Capriles win, the road ahead is hard. There are lots of people in Chavez’ movement who have fallen in love with the power they wield, and they won’t give it up easily.

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