High oil prices in 2004, however, helped the economy recover, and Chávez funneled millions in government revenues to aid literacy and health programs for Venezuela’s slum dwellers. That aid helped Chávez solidify his base among the poor while his opposition mounted a petition drive to recall him from office. The Democratic Coordinator, an umbrella group of organizations opposing the president, succeeded in gathering enough signatures for a referendum in August 2004 to recall Chávez two years before his term was to expire.
Chávez easily defeated the recall attempt, however, winning 59 percent of the vote. The opposition charged the voting was fraudulent, but international monitors from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Carter Center of Atlanta, Georgia, led by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, said the election was free and fair. Carter said the charges of fraud were “completely unwarranted.
In legislative elections held in December 2005, politicians allied with Chávez captured all 167 seats in Venezuela’s National Assembly. A number of the major opposition parties boycotted the election, claiming the electoral system was biased, and only about 25 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.
Opposition parties returned to the electoral process in the 2006 presidential elections, but they made little headway among voters. Chávez was reelected by a wide margin as most Venezuelans appeared to support his policies of redistributing the country’s oil revenues, especially to benefit the poor and working class. Chávez won 63 percent of the vote in an election that saw a relatively high turnout.
Following the presidential election, Chávez asked the National Assembly for the power to rule by decree for a period of 18 months. Critics charged that Chávez was trying to create an authoritarian regime with all powers concentrated in his hands. They said the move was unnecessary in view of the fact that Chávez’s supporters control the legislature, the Supreme Court, and all but two states. Supporters of the president said the ability to rule by decree would give Chávez the power to implement his program to move Venezuela toward socialism without delay. They noted that the National Assembly had passed a similar Enabling Law in 2000, under which Chávez issued more than 40 decrees.
In late January 2007 the National Assembly unanimously approved four measures that gave Chávez the power to rule by decree in 11 broadly defined areas, such as the economy, energy, and defense, for a period of 18 months. Following passage of the legislation, Chávez nationalized the telecommunications, electrical power, and oil industries. By July 2007 he had successfully negotiated agreements with most of the foreign oil companies operating in Venezuela to take control of at least 60 percent of their oil drilling and refining operations in the Orinoco region. Only ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corporation refused the terms of the takeover, though they continued to negotiate. More controversially, however, Chávez also moved to close down or take control of media outlets.
His refusal in May to renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) met with mass protests and denunciations by human rights groups. Chávez’s defenders pointed out that RCTV played a prominent role in supporting the 2002 coup attempt against Chávez. They said a number of influential media outlets, including two leading newspapers in Caracas, remained privately owned and were allowed to publish while being openly critical of Chávez. However, Chávez’s critics countered that the government was opening new state-run television and radio stations and that government advertising in pro-Chávez newspapers had increased 12 times. "Venezuela" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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