COMMENTS: Putin Up, Chavez Down

All three networks filed from Caracas on the Venezuelan referendum. Only NBC had a reporter in Moscow for the parliamentary elections, where President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party prevailed. Jim Maceda reported that Putin's victory was enabled by "new election rules that made it impossible for opposition candidates to compete" and "accusations of vote buying and voter intimidation" that the Kremlin refuted.

The vote in Venezuela, by a 51%-49% margin, upheld term limits for the presidency, meaning that Hugo Chavez will have to leave office in five years instead of being able to run again and again in a bid to become President for Life. NBC's Kerry Sanders summed up the cons and pros: the victorious opponents of the amendment feared creating a dictatorship; the defeated supporters "mostly the poor, believed a victory would guarantee they would share indefinitely in the oil wealth of this nation." CBS' Kelly Cobiella was yet more expansive, depicting a Chavist vision to "remake this oil-rich country into a carbon copy of socialist Cuba." Chavez "surprised his critics by accepting defeat," added ABC's Jeffrey Kofman (no link). "Do not count him out yet. Even without those constitutional changes Chavez still has unprecedented power in this country."


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