"Under the populist rule of President Hugo Chavez, first elected in 1998, Venezuela has undergone enormous political changes, with a new constitution, a new unicameral legislature, and even a new name for the country, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Although Chavez remained widely popular until mid-2001, his popularity eroded considerably after that, amid concerns that he was imposing a leftist agenda. In April 2002, massive opposition protests led to the ouster of Chavez from power for a brief period, but the military restored him to power after an interim government resorted to such hardline measures as dismantling the National Assembly and suspending the Constitution. After months of negotiations, the Chavez government and the political opposition signed an agreement in May 2003 that ultimately led to an August 2004 presidential recall referendum. Chavez survived the vote by a margin of 59% to 41%. In December 2005 legislative elections, pro- Chavez parties won all 167 seats in the National Assembly after opposition parties pulled out of the race just days before the vote. The country's next presidential elections are set for the end of 2006, and there is a strong chance that Chavez could win another six-year term. The government has benefitted from the rise in world oil prices, which has sparked an economic boom. As a result, Chavez has been able to increase government expenditures on anti-poverty and other social programs associated with the populist agenda of his Bolivarian revolution."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32488