“And, to the astonishment of his opponents, Chavez did. At around 2 am this morning, Caracas time, Chavez conceded his first electoral defeat since winning Venezuela's presidency in 1998. After facing an unusually strong protest movement on the streets of Venezuela's major cities — led not by traditional opposition figures but by university students who'd grown fearful that Chavez was moving the country toward a Cuba-style dictatorship — his reforms were narrowly beaten back by a 51% to 49% margin. The result, and Chavez's graceful acceptance of it, may well have set not only Venezuela, a key U.S. oil supplier, but all of Latin America on a far surer path to democracy in the 21st century.”
From The Wall Street Journal:
“The outcome is a humiliating defeat for Mr. Chávez, who had turned the referendum into a plebiscite, telling Venezuelans that a "no" vote was tantamount to treason. Until now, Mr. Chávez had won every political contest he faced by landslide margins.
Chávez detractors charged that the referendum was part of a strategy to use elections to dismantle Venezuela's democracy and replace it with a Cuba-style dictatorship.”
“The loss signals waning support for Chavez's drive to bring socialism to the region's fourth-biggest economy by concentrating power in his hands and increasing state control of private lives. Voters refused to abolish presidential term limits or allow government censorship during declared emergencies. Chavez also sought to shorten the work day and end central bank autonomy.
‘This is the first significant setback that Chavez has ever had,’ said Adam Isacson, director at the Center for International Policy in Washington. ‘He has lost popular support. He has lost support of some of the army and the poor.’
He has also lost confidence of investors. The government's 9 1/4 percent dollar bond due in 2027 fell 22 percent this year before the referendum, with almost half the loss coming in the month before the vote. The bond gained the most in two months afterwards, rising as much as 4.15 cents on the dollar to 103 cents and paring a tumble that has made Venezuelan debt the world's worst performer this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.”