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Why Chavez Was Re-elected in Venezuela

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WASHINGTON - For most people who have heard or read about Hugo Chávez in the international media, his reelection on Sunday as president of Venezuela by a convincing margin might be puzzling.

Almost all of the news we hear about him is bad: He picks fights with the United States and sides with "enemies" such as Iran; he is a "dictator" or "strongman" who has squandered the nation's oil wealth; the Venezuelan economy is plagued by shortages and is usually on the brink of collapse.

Then there is the other side of the story: Since the Chavez government got control over the national oil industry, poverty has been cut by half, and extreme poverty by 70 percent. College enrollment has more than doubled, millions of people have access to health care for the first time and the number of people eligible for public pensions has quadrupled.

So it should not be surprising that most Venezuelans would reelect a president who has improved their living standards. That's what has happened with all of the leftist governments that now govern most of South America. This is despite the fact that they, like Chavez, have most of their countries' media against them, and their opposition has most of the wealth and income of their respective countries.    

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