Venezuela's High-Stakes Vote

Political leaders at home and abroad are hoping the Aug. 15 recall vote on Venezuela President Hugo Chávez will bring some stability to the oil-rich nation. But unless one side or the other wins decisively, calm is not in the cards. As the fateful day approached, support for the populist Chávez, whose public approval rating once fell below 30%, rose toward 50%. That's because he is spending hundreds of millions of oil dollars on social programs for the poor. The diverse and fractious opposition was suffering from the lack of a single leader to present as an alternative to the charismatic former paratrooper. If the result is close, deep-seated political tensions could explode into bloody protests.

Edited by Michael S. Serrill

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