Girish Gupta

HOME

BY COUNTRY

Brazil
Colombia
Cuba
Ecuador
Egypt
Guyana
Iraq
Jordan
Lebanon
Mexico
United Kingdom
Venezuela

BY MEDIUM

Text
Photo
Radio
TV/Video

BY PUBLISHER

Al Jazeera
BBC
BuzzFeed
CBC
Christian Science Monitor
CNN
Daily Mail
Datum
Ecologist
Economist Intelligence Unit
Emerging Markets
Financial Times
Foreign Policy
France 24
Fusion
GlobalPost
Guardian
Independent
La Prensa (Panama)
LatinFinance
Mancunion
Monocle
National (Abu Dhabi)
New Internationalist
New Statesman
New York Times
New Yorker
NPR
PBS
PRI
Radio France Internationale
Reuters
RTE
Sky News
Sun
Sunday Times
Telegraph
TIME
Times of London
USA Today
Vice
WLRN

ABOUT

About
CV
Contact (PGP Key)

Twitter
Facebook
LinkedIn
Venezuelan election could be closer than expected
Apr. 14, 2013 — Barinas, Venezuela

Published by USA Today

Sitting and watching friends play dominoes in the city's main square, Ángel Sánchez admits he has always been and always will be a supporter of Hugo Chávez, the firebrand socialist who led Venezuela for 14 years until his death last month.

In Chávez's absence, power passed to vice president and handpicked successor Nicolás Maduro. The 50-year-old former bus driver is competing in Sunday's presidential election against Henrique Capriles Radonski, 40, a state governor who lost to Chávez in October.

"I'd vote for Chávez if he were alive, of course," said Sánchez, a 60-year-old farmer who says he will vote for Capriles on Sunday. "But we need drastic change now."

Maduro hopes to tap the late leader's popularity to win the special election, but that will mean inheriting a wide range of problems left behind by Chávez, troubles that have been harped on by opposition challenger Capriles.

Although he's still favored, Maduro's early big lead in opinion polls sharply narrowed in the past week as Venezuelans grappled with a litany of woes many blame on Chávez's mismanagement of the economy and infrastructure: chronic power outages, double-digit inflation, food and medicine shortages. Add to that rampant crime: Venezuela has among the world's highest homicide and kidnapping rates.

Chávez was a dazzling figure to his supporters — often seen as the man who seized wealth and claimed it was for the poor. Because of his popularity, he's not often blamed for the country's slide into economic chaos.

Maduro may find a different sentiment among previous Chávez supporters who have now turned to Capriles to solve the country's woes.

"Chávez understood this country," Sánchez says. "Maduro is very different. He's not smart enough."

For friend and retired oil worker José López, 66, "the era of Chávez is over. Chávez was a total disaster. Many people don't interpret it as such because they receive these red T-shirts and gifts from the government."

Barinas is the "cradle" of Chávez's revolution, in his own words. The president was born in the sweltering plains in 1954, growing up in a dirt-floor mud hut with his grandmother.

The area is staunchly "Chavista," and many in the state remember the young Chávez.

Flor Figueredo, 67, lives just opposite from the house where the young Chávez grew up. She remembers him running around the streets, playing with friends.

"He left a great legacy," Figueredo says. "Maduro isn't Chávez, but with the help of the people, he'll continue the revolution."

Before leaving Caracas for his fourth cancer operation in December, Chávez chose Maduro as his successor. Maduro has tried to follow in his mentor's ways.

On March 5, hours before announcing the death of "the Comandante," Maduro expelled two U.S. diplomats from Venezuela in an anti-imperialist rant familiar to those who listened Chávez rail against the West.

Maduro's pronouncements have become ever more surreal. Speaking on state television, Maduro said that Chávez appeared to him as a small bird, and he imitated the bird's calling and the sound of its wings flapping as he spoke.

"It sang and I responded with a song, and the bird took flight, circled around once and then flew away," he said. "I felt the spirit and blessings of Comandante Chávez for this battle."

Maduro even suggested that Chávez had a posthumous hand in the selection of the first Latin American as pope.

"We know that our Comandante ascended to heaven and is face-to-face with Christ," Maduro said. "Something influenced the choice of a South American pope."

Maduro's campaign relies heavily upon Chávez, whose image appears on almost all campaign material and is invoked at every opportunity by Maduro, who calls himself the "son of Chávez."

The state of Barinas is in Los Llanos, a land famous for cowboys and revolutionaries. Its government is notoriously corrupt and run by Chávez relatives. Its governor, Adán Chávez, is the late president's brother.

Speaking from his office, Capriles' campaign chief for the state, Jose Luis Machin Machin, said that he has a tough job ahead of him.

"We were governed by Chávez's father for eight years," he said. "The governor now is Chávez's brother; another brother is president of the national electric corporation; other family members have high-level positions across the government."

Manchin cited another family member working in the upper echelons of state oil company PDVSA, another is the president of the Zamora football club in Barinas.

"We're talking about all the political and economic power here," he said. "We have nepotism here in Barinas. We're governed by one family. That family has extraordinary power."

Back in the capital city's main square, López echoed the campaign chief's views.

"All of these people have jumped on the Chávez plane," he said. "They're not in power because they're competent leaders! Chávez's family was once — once! — a poor family. Now they have enormous riches. No one knows how they earned all this money."

He added: "Capriles is offering something that can be achieved. Capriles' time has come."

Filed from
Barinas, Venezuela






More...

Exclusive: Venezuela holds 5,000 Russian surface-to-air MANPADS missiles
May. 22, 2017


Venezuelan opposition activists march to Leopoldo Lopez' jail
Apr. 28, 2017


Venezuela says inflation 274 percent last year, economists say far higher
Apr. 20, 2017


Venezuelan protests against government leave three dead
Apr. 19, 2017


Venezuelans return to streets, roused by ban on opposition leader
Apr. 8, 2017


Venezuelan opposition, security forces clash in anti-Maduro protests
Apr. 6, 2017


Venezuela security forces battle anti-Maduro protesters
Apr. 4, 2017


Venezuela money supply up 200 pct in year, fastest rise on record
Apr. 3, 2017


Amid protests, Venezuela's Maduro seeks to defuse court row
Mar. 31, 2017


Venezuela begins republishing key economic indicator after hiatus
Mar. 23, 2017


Crisis-hit Venezuela halts publication of another major indicator
Mar. 21, 2017


Back in Venezuela, 'world's worst skier' proud of his performance
Feb. 26, 2017


Some poor Venezuelan parents give away children amid deep crisis
Dec. 15, 2016


Desperate to dump soon-worthless cash, Venezuelans flock to banks
Dec. 13, 2016


Inflation-hit Venezuela to pull largest bill from circulation
Dec. 11, 2016








© Girish Gupta