Venezuelans will be going to the polls this weekend to elect their president. Unlike any election in recent memory there, it’s looking close for Hugo Chavez, who has been in power since 1998. Since then, Chavez has steered Venezuela toward what he calls a “socialism for the 21st century.” He has kicked out foreign firms and nationalized the oil industry — in the country with the biggest oil reserves in the world.
The challenger Henrique Capriles, a lawyer with a long political resume, “recognizes private intellectual property and offers to discontinue government takeover of important sectors of the economy, such as food companies, services and banks,” says Cristina Soriano, professor of Latin American History at Villanova University.
If Capriles defeats Chavez, he is likely to make it easier and more lucrative for foreign companies to come back to Venezuela. Soriano says this could boost the country’s economy, “it would make more employment,” but, “there are a lot of Chavez supporters that are afraid that if Capriles wins…he won’t continue social programs, they are afraid of losing many benefits that Chavez has brought to the poeople of Venezuela.”
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