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In Hugo's hands

WHEN Hugo Chávez first took office as president of Venezuela, in 1999, he made no mention of socialism. But as he celebrated another crushing victory in reasonably fair presidential elections on Sunday December 3rd the controversial leader claimed that “more than 60% of Venezuelans voted not for Chávez but for a project that has a name—Bolivarian socialism”.

Mr Chávez can certainly claim a mandate. Preliminary results gave him 61% of the votes, compared with 38% for his challenger, Manuel Rosales. But it is far from clear quite what the voters understand “Bolivarian socialism”—named after a 19th-century independence hero—to mean. Polls suggest that many people think it has something to do with social welfare projects and the redistribution of Venezuela’s substantial oil income. But most (perhaps 80%) reject any idea of adopting a Cuban-type system, despite Mr Chávez’s cosy relationship with Fidel Castro and the fondness of both men for rhetoric about their “indivisible” revolutions.

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