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Chávez, Sí, but maybe not forever

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An office manager in Caracas who spoke on condition of anonymity says that he voted for Chávez in each election up to 2006.

But he voted against a package of reforms – that included the scrapping of presidential term limits – in a referendum in December 2007.

In last year's regional elections, he voted for opposition candidates for governor and mayor but also for a party aligned with Chávez in the legislative council as "a counterweight".

"I'm not from one side or the other because I can't find any figure that represents me," says the office manager. "There are sectors of the opposition that are identical to what existed before and which propose the same types of policies that are very regressive from a social point of view.

"They don't represent a real alternative for change against ," he says. "They're very much controlled by the sectors with power – in some ways Chávez is right to call them oligarchic."

The office manager applauds initiatives such as the community councils, which are neighborhood panels of elected representatives chosen to address local problems, but does not necessarily credit the government with their success.

"The transformations thus far have been cosmetic," he says of Chávez's 10 years in power.

"Those initiatives where communities have been well organized have had good results," says the office manager. "But there were lots of communities that were very well organized before Chávez."

An architect from Venezuela's third-largest city, Valencia, who also spoke on condition of anonymity says that polarization puts her in an equivocal position.

"It is felt that either I have to support everything that Chávez says or think that everything that the opposition leaders do is positive," she says. "Polarization means that we cannot come to any solutions."

The government campaign seems bent on dividing opinion.

Fliers handed out in the streets by Chávez supporters warn of the dismantling of free healthcare and education programs funded by oil profits and of a return to a pre-Chávez "oligarchy" where the poor once again would be marginalized if Chávez cannot continue.

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