Chavez wins a third term and keeps up anti-U.S. rhetoric
With 80% of the ballots counted, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez held a 61% to 38% lead over his challenger, Manuel Rosales. He was declared the winner Sunday night.
According to U.S. undersecretary of State for Latin America, Thomas A. Shannon, the direction of U.S.-Venezuelan relations is now up to Chavez. Shannon went on to say "We don’t want confrontation with Venezuela - on the contrary, we’ve always looked for ways to deepen the dialog with President Chavez, and our hopes are that, maybe, at this moment he will show a greater interest."
The relationship between the U.S. and Venezuela has been strained since Chavez took office in 1999. Chavez has referred to President Bush as the "devil" and the U.S. as the "empire." Other reasons for this strained relationship include Chavez’s stance on globalization, his unwillingness to help the U.S. with its drug trafficking efforts, and his commitment to socialism.
The U.S. is making it’s desires clear to work together on issues of mutual interest and to improve the relationship. Some, however, feel that Chavez may already be too far down the path of anti-U.S. rhetoric to turn it around. His background as a former military person and his desire to be viewed as a powerful leftist like Fidel Castro may also make it difficult for Chavez to open up to and negotiate with the United States.
Despite the disappointment in the results of the election, U.S. official congratulated the Venezuelan people on the election, however they did not do the same for Chavez himself. The election results are being accepted as legitimate and Juan Enrique Fisher from the Organization of American States congratulated Venezuelan officials on a "transparent and well-run election."