One can only hope that an anti-Chavez wave is building in Venezuela. That said, I’m not holding my breath that that’s what’s happening but I am encouraged that that’s the subject of this article.

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans packed a major highway Saturday in a rally for opposition presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, one of the largest demonstrations against President Hugo Chavez in years. Shouts of “Dare to change!” rose up from the dense crowd filling the highway for several miles and spilling into nearby overpasses and streets in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas. The rally came eight days before the country’s presidential election on Dec. 3.
Rosales, speaking from a stage, promised democracy for a country he said was sinking into Cuba-style authoritarianism under Chavez. “I don’t want to be a president who controls all the branches of government,” Rosales shouted to thundering applause. “Let there be true democracy in Venezuela!” He denounced the government for prohibiting television crews from using helicopters to film the march, saying, “They don’t want the people to see this multitude. They are scared,” he shouted, pumping his fists. “We are going to win on Dec. 3.”

According to this website, Venezuela’s population is approximately 25 million people. If the report is accurate that “hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans packed a major highway Saturday in a rally for opposition presidential candidate Manuel Rosales”, then that could mean that there’s enough disenchantment with Chavez to defeat him.

That said, I’m doubtful that Chavez will lose, partially because he’s a thug who won’t think twice about resorting to thuggish tactics tow in, partially because he’s like longtime American politicians like Ted Stevens, Robert Byrd and John Murtha in that he’s adept at buying votes with pork.

Despite the revived opposition movement, Chavez remains hugely popular among the poor, especially those who see benefits from oil-funded social programs ranging from free health care to heavily subsidized government grocery stores.

Getting rid of Chavez won’t be easy but it would be a great day for the United States and for South America.

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