The Costa Rican government this week congratulated the people of Venezuela for completing the “democratic exercise of a referendum,” a vote which resulted in an unprecedented, albeit narrow, defeat for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
“Costa Rica experienced something similar last month,” said a statement from the Foreign Ministry, pointing to the country’s referendum on the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).
Costa Rica’s Oct. 7 vote, however, ended in a victory for the nation’s president, Oscar Arias, who is a critic of Chávez and has made CAFTA a centerpiece in his administration’s agenda.
In one of the first voter setbacks in the leftwing Venezuelan president’s rule, 50.7% of participants rejected Chávez’s proposed reforms, which called for a lift on presidential term limits and other changes viewed as pushing forward a 21st century socialist revolution.
The 49.2% in favor was not enough to buoy Chávez’s plan.
Among the proposals rejected were plans to shorten the working day and lower the voting age from 18 to 16. However, Chávez’s bid for indefinite presidency stirred the most controversy.
Opposition in Venezuelan society to reforms, and even growing dissent from within the president’s own political camp, could be what tipped the vote, commentators said.
“This is not a defeat,” Chávez said, and pledged to “continue working toward socialism.”