Refinery Blast Could Harm Chavez's Re-election Efforts

Assuming he doesn't steal the election, of course.


An explosion at Venezuela's largest refinery that killed at least 48 people and injured dozens on Aug. 25 is threatening to cast a shadow over President Hugo Chavez's re-election bid.

The blast and ongoing fire at Amuay, 240 miles west of the capital, Caracas, adds to a number of events in recent weeks that have fueled concern over mismanagement, including a collapsed bridge connecting Caracas with the east of the country, deadly prison riots and protests by state workers over collective contracts.

Chavez will need to divert blame from a poor refinery maintenance record to avoid political fallout ahead of the Oct. 7 vote, said Luis Vicente Leon, president of Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis. The self-declared socialist, who is seeking to extend almost 14 years in power with another six-year term, trailed his opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski, for the first time in a Consultores 21 poll earlier this month.