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Casting Call.

A TRIO OF VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ'S COMrades from the 1992 coup attempt is feuding with him, claiming he is being corrupted by power. Retired military leaders urge the pro-military Ch[acute{a}]vez to leave his paratrooper uniform at home when he's stumping. Cabinet posts are changing hands. * Like a telenovela with a confusing plot, Venezuela's political-scape is shifting so much that it's hard to keep track of the co-stars. The reason? Ch[acute{a}]vez is head-to-head with his first serious political challenge. As the May 28 presidential election draws near, the drama will increase. Make no mistake, the populist president still charms his followers, but he no longer commands a 90% positive rating among the general public. The vote will indicate just how much of a mandate remains. * In the meantime, the wary business community grows warier. Even those who applaud Ch[acute{a}]vez's strategy for telecommunications group CANTV--namely, freezing rates and renegotiating the 1991 privatization contract--b last Ch[acute{a}]vez's strong-arm tactics. And organized labor? Head butting with thousands of petroleum workers worried about their contract is another inauspicious sign. The mayor of Caracas, a political rival, has tossed unsubstantiated rumors of a government overthrow into the mix. * Clearly, there will be a post-election dressing room shuffle. New faces will appear and untested alliances will be spawned. Both could determine the long-term viability of his political agenda. "I've been against soap operas all my life," Ch[acute{a}]vez has said. Even so, he'll have to audition a new cast of characters to make this one work.
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Author:Dempsey, Mary
Publication:Latin Trade
Date:May 1, 2000
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