Hugo Chavez scored a decisive win recently with the passing of a referendum he had proposed, effectively ending term limits and opening a path for the controversial president to stay in power well past his current term, which ends in 2012.
Speaking from the balcony of the presidential palace to thousands of supporters, Chavez called his referendum win a "perfect victory" and declared it a "mandate for socialism."
But it is only going to get harder for Chavez. Venezuela's economy has been tied to the price of oil for some time now, and with the current global financial crisis in full swing, prices have been free falling. Prices for Venezuelan crude oil have plummeted 72 percent since setting record highs in July of 2008.
Over the last 10 years, Chavez has spent heavily on social programs which has garnered much of the popular support he has received. Chavez says he plans to spend more than $200 billion over the next four years to build railways, improve health care, support agriculture and invest in energy. But with prices for oil still falling, it is unclear whether or not the Venezuelan government will have the money to support the spending plan.
The dire news may explain why President Chavez recently changed his tune when it comes to President Barack Obama whom just last month he declared "shared the stench of his predecessor."
During a press conference right before the referendum vote, Chavez said that he was ready to engage in direct diplomatic talks with President Obama in an attempt to repair rocky relations with the USA. "Any day is propitious for talking with President Obama," President Chávez said. He continued, saying he would be willing to meet with Obama before a summit meeting in April of Western Hemisphere nations. The White House has yet to respond.