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Cablegate: Hugo Chavez Wins in a Landslide

O 070422Z DEC 98
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2489
INFO AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
AMEMBASSY QUITO
AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
AMEMBASSY LIMA
AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN
USCINCSO MIAMI FL
USIA WASHDC 2006
DIA WASHDC
CIA WASHDC
NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 003637

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON VE
SUBJECT: HUGO CHAVEZ WINS IN A LANDSLIDE

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SUMMARY
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1. HUGO CHAVEZ FRIAS WON THE DECEMBER 6 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN
A LANDSLIDE, BESTING HENRIQUE SALAS ROMER 56 PERCENT TO 39 PERCENT.
WITH MORE THAN 80 PERCENT OF THE VOTE COUNTED, THE NATIONAL
ELECTORAL COUNCIL (CNE) DECLARED CHAVEZ THE WINNER LESS THAN THREE
HOURS AFTER THE POLLS HAD CLOSED. THESE ELECTIONS, A MODEL OF
DECORUM AND ADMINISTRATIVE EFFICIENCY, BROUGHT APPROXIMATELY
SEVENTY PERCENT OF VENEZUELA'S ELECTORATE TO THE POLLS IN A
PEACEFUL AND SUCCESSFUL VOTE OBSERVED BY MORE THAN THREE HUNDRED
INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS. DEFEATED CANDIDATE SALAS ROMER, IN A
GRACIOUS AND STATESMANLIKE CONCESSION SPEECH, PROMISED TO WORK WITH
CHAVEZ TO ACHIEVE THE "RADICAL CHANGE" NECESSARY TO REFORM
VENEZUELA'S PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS, MAKE ITS DEMOCRACY MORE
REPRESENTATIVE, AND IMPROVE THE ECONOMIC WELL-BEING OF ITS
CITIZENS. CHAVEZ, FOR HIS PART, DECLARED THAT HE HAD "NO POLITICAL
ENEMIES," AND REACHED OUT TO HIS ELECTORAL ADVERSARIES, DECLARING
THAT THROUGH RECONCILIATION VENEZUELA CAN OVERCOME ITS DIVISIONS
AND CONFRONT ITS MAJOR CHALLENGES. END SUMMARY.

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CHAVEZ BY A LANDSLIDE
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2. HUGO CHAVEZ FRIAS WAS PRONOUNCED THE WINNER OF THE DECEMBER 6
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS BY THE NATIONAL ELECTORAL COUNCIL (CNE) LESS
THAN THREE HOURS AFTER THE POLLS CLOSED. THE LIGHTENING VOTE
COUNT, FACILITATED BY SUCCESSFUL AUTOMATION OF THE VOTING PROCESS,
HAD TABULATED MORE THAN EIGHTY PERCENT OF THE VOTE FROM MORE THAN
SEVENTY PERCENT OF THE POLLING STATIONS, GIVING CHAVEZ A PROJECTED
VICTORY OVER HENRIQUE SALAS ROMER BY A MARGIN OF 17 PERCENTAGE
POINTS (56 PERCENT TO 39 PERCENT). THIS IS THE LARGEST MARGIN OF
VICTORY IN A VENEZUELAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SINCE 1983, WHEN
JAIME LUSINCHI BEAT RAFAEL CALDERA BY 57 PERCENT TO 34 PERCENT.

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A GOOD, CLEAN ELECTION
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3. THE DECEMBER 6 VOTE WAS CHARACTERIZED BY DECORUM AND
ADMINISTRATIVE EFFICIENCY. IN CONTRAST TO THE NOVEMBER 8 REGIONAL
ELECTIONS, QUICK VOTING WAS FACILITATED BY PUNCTUAL OPENING OF THE
VOTING CENTERS, IMPROVED ORGANIZATION, AND A SIMPLER BALLOT.
ALTHOUGH INITIAL ESTIMATES OF VOTER TURNOUT WERE A FULL 15 PERCENT
HIGHER THAN THE NOVEMBER 8 VOTE (70 PERCENT TODAY;55 PERCENT
NOVEMBER 8), VOTERS MOVED THROUGH THE VOTING CENTERS QUICKLY AND
EASILY, ONLY RARELY EXPERIENCING LONG LINES OR WAITS. THE INFORMAL
CONSENSUS OF THE NEARLY 300 INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS INVITED TO
WATCH THE ELECTIONS WAS THAT THE ELECTIONS WERE WELL RUN AND WELL
RECEIVED. AGAIN, OBSERVERS FROM ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS THE CARTER
CENTER, THE INTERNATIONAL REPUBLICAN INSTITUTE, THE NATIONAL
DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE, THE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR ELECTORAL
SYSTEMS, THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES, AND OVER FORTY
MEMBERS OF THIS EMBASSY, NOTED THE DETERMINATION OF VENEZUELAN
VOTERS TO EXERCISE THEIR RIGHT TO VOTE AND TO EXPRESS THEIR DESIRE
FOR SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL CHANGE THROUGH THE ELECTORAL AND
DEMOCRATIC PROCESSES.

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SALAS CONCEDES
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4. FOLLOWING THE PRONOUNCEMENT OF THE CNE DECLARING CHAVEZ THE
PROJECTED WINNER OF THE ELECTIONS, CANDIDATE HENRIQUE SALAS ROMER
OFFICIALLY CONCEDED VICTORY TO HUGO CHAVEZ. SALAS ROMER, IN A
GRACIOUS AND STATESMANLIKE FASHION, CONGRATULATED CHAVEZ FOR HIS
VICTORY, AND PROMISED TO WORK WITH CHAVEZ TO ACHIEVE THE "RADICAL
CHANGE" WHICH SO MANY VENEZUELANS WANT AND DEMAND FROM THEIR
POLITICAL LEADERS. SALAS ROMER SAID HE WOULD NOT RETIRE FROM
POLITICS, BUT INSTEAD WOULD IMMERSE HIMSELF EVEN DEEPER IN THE
EFFORT TO REFORM VENEZUELA'S PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS, MAKE ITS
DEMOCRACY MORE REPRESENTATIVE, AND IMPROVE THE ECONOMIC WELL-BEING
OF ITS CITIZENS. HE PUT CHAVEZ ON NOTICE THAT HE AND HIS
SUPPORTERS WOULD HOLD HIM TO HIS WORD TO AFFECT RADICAL CHANGE
WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF DEMOCRACY AND INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY.

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CHAVEZ REACHES OUT TO HIS ADVERSARIES
-------------------------------------

5. CHAVEZ, IN A TELEVISION INTERVIEW IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE
CNE'S PRONOUNCEMENT, SAID HE HAD NO "POLITICAL ENEMIES" AND CALLED
ON HIS ELECTORAL ADVERSARIES TO WORK WITH HIM TO CONSTRUCT A NEW
VENEZUELA. HE REACHED OUT TO HENRIQUE SALAS ROMER AND HIS PARTY,
PROYECTO VENEZUELA, ALONG WITH THE DEMOCRATIC ACTION PARTY (AD),
THE SOCIAL CHRISTIAN PARTY (COPEI), AND OTHERS, TO JOIN HIM IN HIS
ATTACK ON THE CORRUPTION, IMPUNITY, AND POOR MANAGEMENT WHICH HAVE
RENDERED THE VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT WEAK, INEFFECTIVE, AND DESPISED.
CHAVEZ SAID IT WAS TIME TO "FORGIVE AND FORGET" AND THAT ONLY
THROUGH RECONCILIATION COULD VENEZUELA FIND THE UNITY TO CONFRONT
ITS MAJOR CHALLENGES.

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AND TO THE MILITARY
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6. CHAVEZ, DURING THE INTERVIEW, SAID HE HAD REQUESTED THE GOV TO
BRING HOME FROM WASHINGTON GENERAL RAUL SALAZAR SO THAT SALAZAR
COULD PREPARE TO BECOME CHAVEZ'S MINISTER OF DEFENSE. CHAVEZ ALSO
PRAISED THE CURRENT MILITARY HIGH COMMAND FOR ITS STRONG,
INSTITUTIONAL ROLE DURING THE ELECTORAL PROCESS. DEFENSE MINISTER
ADMIRAL TITO RINCON BRAVO, FOLLOWING THE CNE PRONOUNCEMENT, TOLD
THE PRESS THAT THE ARMED FORCES WOULD CONTINUE ITS ROLE AS GUARANTOR
OF THE CONSTITUTION AND DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS AND WOULD FULLY
SUPPORT THE RESULTS OF THE ELECTIONS.

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COMMENT
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7. WE STILL AWAIT CHAVEZ'S FIRST MAJOR PRONOUNCEMENTS AS
PRESIDENT-ELECT, WHICH WILL COME LATER THIS EVENING. HOWEVER, WE
KNOW THAT CHAVEZ'S ELECTION MARKS AN HISTORIC MILESTONE IN
VENEZUELAN POLITICAL HISTORY, AND WILL PRESENT THIS COUNTRY NEW AND
SPECIAL CHALLENGES IN THE MONTHS TO COME. THE PEACEFUL VOTE AND
THE CELEBRATIONS WHICH FOLLOWED THE PRONOUNCEMENT OF CHAVEZ'S
VICTORY--WHICH HAVE NOT FEATURED ANY KIND OF VIOLENCE OR
DISTURBANCE--ARE A TRIBUTE TO THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE CNE, THE
PREPARATION OF THE VENEZUELAN SECURITY FORCES CHARGED WITH
MAINTAINING PUBLIC ORDER, AND THE MATURITY OF THE VENEZUELAN VOTER.
IN THIS REGARD, THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS OF DECEMBER 6, LIKE THE
REGIONAL ELECTIONS OF NOVEMBER 8, WERE A VICTORY FOR VENEZUELAN
DEMOCRACY AS MUCH AS FOR ANY SINGLE CANDIDATE.


MAISTO

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