Jim Armitage: Ken Livingstone's old chum Hugo Chavez faces a tough election

Venezuela could go orthodox as fiery Cristina Kirchner takes Argentina further to the left

A devil to the US, a folk hero in much of Venezuela, could Ken Livingstone's old chum Hugo Chavez finally be on his way out?

Despite the privations of many in his crime-riddled country and its human rights abuses, it's hard not to feel a childish respect for the man who cocks a snook at Washington.

But, at elections looming next month, Hugo has tough opposition in the form of Henrique Capriles. The 41-year-old Capriles, a Catholic of Jewish ancestry,styles himself as a modern democrat and wants to woo back the investors Chavez has chased out of town.

Chavez has used Venezuela's vast oil wealth to fund much-needed social programmes. Predictably, he's turned on the taps in the election run-up to win over poorer voters.

However, Capriles argues the oil industry is hugely inefficient and should bring in far more money.

He cites as his hero Brazil's reformist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who encouraged free market reforms alongside a strong redistribution-of-wealth ethos.

If the elections do go his way, it will be a dramatic shift in the Latin American tectonic plates. The region has been split between the orthodox Brazilian and Mexican economies and the more erratic and left-wing Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Venezuela would be jumping ship to the orthodox camp just as Argentina, led by fiery Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, heads further left.

The pro-Chavez oil union declared this week they will not let Capriles win: "We, the working class, will not allow it." If that read like a threat, perhaps it was meant to. If Capriles wins, it will only be by a narrow margin. Chavez's supporters would contest the result. Expect trouble.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory