US embassy cable - 98CARACAS3637

HUGO CHAVEZ WINS IN A LANDSLIDE

Identifier: 98CARACAS3637
Wikileaks: View 98CARACAS3637 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Caracas
Created: 1998-12-07 04:22:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PGOV PREL ECON VE
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
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 
---------------------- 
 
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 
-------------- 
 
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 
------------------- 
 
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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