Could an Obama win hurt Chávez?
Without Bush to rail against, Chávez will be left without a foil, say analysts.
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Mr. Chávez has made an art out of insulting President Bush and his "imperialist" foreign policy. His anti-Bush diatribes resonate in Venezuela and have helped insulate him from growing criticism that he neglects domestic affairs. And every time he launches into his famous oratory, he impresses a slew of left-leaning international admirers who wonder at his defiance of the world's sole superpower – which they say has taken an arrogant and aggressive tack.
A McCain victory would allow him to sustain that message: Mr. McCain, after all, hails from the same party and shares many of the same policies as Bush. But Senator Obama is a different story. It remains to be seen how Obama, who has never visited Latin America, would actually shape his policies here, but many in the region identify with his mixed-race heritage, share more similar politics, and would welcome what they consider a newcomer to the Washington beltway.
Bush an easy target?
In Bush, Chávez has what analysts call an easy target.
Chávez doesn't have to look far to find allies in the region who also oppose the US war in Iraq and condemn what consider a US disregard for Latin America.
"And every time the domestic situation worsens [in Venezuela], the more aggressive he gets," says Elsa Cardozo, a foreign affairs specialist at the Central University of Caracas.
Chávez has said that he doesn't officially support either McCain or Obama. But certainly his views are closer to those of Obama, especially on opposing unregulated free trade pacts.
Obama has voted against various agreements in the region, including one with Colombia. He has also said that parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement should be renegotiated.
McCain, on the other hand, just ended a three-day trip to Colombia and Mexico, where he touted his support for agreements in both countries.
One of the centerpieces of Chávez's presidency has been an effort to create the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA – what he says would be an alternative trading block that would lessen the region's dependence on the US. Cuba, one of Chávez's major allies, is a member, along with Nicaragua and Bolivia.
On Cuba, Obama is more likely to ease some of the most strict US trade and travel restrictions.
Policies aside, the people of Venezuela seem much more drawn to Obama than McCain. "I would say that traditionally here in Venezuela, most Venezuelans support a Democratic Party candidate," says Steve Ellner, Venezuelan-based author of the recently published book "Rethinking Venezuelan Politics." "And that cuts across political and ideological differences."