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Hugo Chavez and the 1998 Venezuelan Presidential Election

The 1998 presidential election in Venezuela was rambunctious as are most political free-for-alls where great issues are at stake. After his failed coup in 1992 and subsequent imprisonment until 1994, Hugo Chavez decided that the best approach to gaining power was no longer through the military, but by political means. As soon as he left prison in 1994, he began his campaign for the presidency.

Hugo Chavez Waving

Chavez collected campaign contributions from all over. It has been revealed that some of his money came from outside the country, including from a drug smuggling terrorist group centered in Columbia called FARC.1 He was also welcomed by Fidel Castro in Cuba. To the populist approach, Chavez added anti-American rhetoric.

Chavez founded a political party called the "Fifth Republic Movement" (MVR en espanol). Early in the campaign Chavez ran far behind. (He began at less than 10 percent in the polls.) However, his vigorous campaigning, denouncing corruption and promising to use oil revenues to end poverty, consistently pushed him up. The poor seemed to believe that they needed a strongman to advance a socialist agenda.

On 6 December 1998, Chavez was elected president of Venezuela with just over 56% of the vote2.

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  1. Wall Street Journal: 10 March 2008, A14
  2. 1998 Venezuelan Election Poll Results