Friday, August 20
The Chávez Victory: A Blow to the Bush Administration
JUAN FORERO Juan Forero, New York Times, August 20, 2004

ARACAS, Venezuela, Aug. 19 - When President Hugo Chávez was ousted in a coup two years ago, the Bush administration celebrated, calling the ouster his own doing. The rest of Latin America was left fuming by the overthrow and expressed strong support for Mr. Chávez as he was almost immediately swept back into power in a popular uprising.

On Sunday, when Mr. Chávez triumphed over his adversaries in a referendum on whether he should be recalled from office, countries from Brazil to Argentina, Colombia to Spain heartily congratulated him. The United States remained silent for more than a day, until a State Department spokesman, Adam Ereli, offered tepid backing for the "preliminary results."

The resounding victory was a blow to the Bush administration, which has struggled with how to deal with Mr. Chávez, a leftist firebrand who presides over the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and has opposed Washington on every major initiative in Latin America. "There's no doubt in my mind that at least in the White House - I don't know about the State Department - there was a deep desire to see Chávez lose," said former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center monitored the election and who has briefed American officials on his efforts to broker a peace between the government and its opponents. [... more]

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