News / Americas

Capriles, Maduro at Each Other’s Throats in Venezuela Election

A peddler offer t-shirts with images of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in front of the Military Academy in Caracas, Mar. 14, 2013.
A peddler offer t-shirts with images of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in front of the Military Academy in Caracas, Mar. 14, 2013.
Reuters
Presidential candidates Nicolas Maduro and Henrique Capriles have begun Venezuela’s election race with scathing personal attacks even as mourners still file past the late Hugo Chavez’s corpse.

Maduro, who was sworn in as acting president after Chavez succumbed to cancer last week, is seen as the favorite to win the April 14 election, bolstered by an oil-financed state apparatus and a wave of public sympathy over Chavez’s death.

“I am not Chavez, but I am his son,” Maduro told thousands of cheering, red-clad supporters as he formally presented his candidacy to the election board on Monday.

Chavez made clear before his fourth and last cancer operation in December that he wanted Maduro to be his Socialist Party’s candidate to succeed him if he died.

Maduro has vowed to continue the socialist policies of Chavez’s 14-year rule in the South American OPEC nation, including the popular use of vast oil revenues for social programs. But Capriles is promising a tough fight.

“Nicolas, I’m not going to give you a free passage ... you are not Chavez,” Capriles said in a combative speech late on Sunday. He also accused Maduro of lying to minimize Chavez’s medical condition while he prepared his candidacy.

“Nicolas lied to this country for months,” Capriles said. “You are exploiting someone who is no longer here because you have nothing else to offer the country ... I don’t play with death, I don’t play with suffering, like that.”

Within minutes, in a late-night address to the nation, Maduro said his rival was playing with fire, offending Chavez’s family and risking legal action.

“You can see the disgusting face of the fascist that he is,” a visibly furious Maduro said, alleging that the opposition was hoping to stir up violence.

“His aim is to provoke the Venezuelan people.”

At stake in the election is not only the future of Chavez’s socialist “revolution,” but the continuation of Venezuelan oil subsidies and other aid crucial to the economies of left-wing allies around Latin America, from Cuba to Bolivia.

Venezuela boasts the world’s largest oil reserves.

Chavez’s wishes

Thousands of Maduro supporters, waving photos of Chavez, accompanied him at the election board’s headquarters in downtown Caracas. “I’m backing Maduro because Chavez asked us,” said law student Marliely Lopez, 22.

Chavez’s voice boomed from loudspeakers at the rally. Shaken by Chavez’s death and now immersed in an ugly election campaign, Venezuelans saw some semblance of normality return on Monday as most schools and shops re-opened after being closed for most of last week.

The official mourning period for Chavez ends on Tuesday. Several million have paid their respects at his coffin at a military academy in a dramatic outpouring of grief.

Though criticized by many for his authoritarian tendencies and handling of the economy, Chavez was loved by millions, especially the poor, because of his own humble background, plain language, attacks on global “imperialists” and the domestic “elite,” as well as his welfare policies in Venezuela’s slums.

In death, he is fast earning a near-religious status among supporters, perhaps akin to that of Argentina’s former populist ruler Juan Peron and his deeply loved wife Eva Peron.

State TV has been playing speeches and appearances by Chavez over and over, next to a banner saying “Chavez lives forever.”

“We have the honor of having shared with the Bolivarian leader the same ideals of social justice and of support for the exploited,” Chavez’s friend and mentor, Fidel Castro, said in the latest of many tributes to him.

“I remembered the times he joked with me saying that when both of us finished our revolutionary work, he would invite me to spend time by the Arauca River in Venezuelan territory, which reminded him of the rest he never had.”

Opposition’s uphill race

Though there are hopes for a post-Chavez rapprochement between ideological foes Venezuela and the United States, a diplomatic spat worsened on Monday when Washington expelled two Venezuelan diplomats in a tit-for-tat retaliation.

Two U.S. military attaches were ordered out last week, on the day of Chavez’s death, for allegedly conspiring with locals against the government.

Chavez’s many local detractors are keeping a low profile. But they say his memory is being burnished to forget less savory parts of his rule like the bullying of opponents and stifling of private businesses with nationalizations often announced on a whim.

Capriles, a 40-year-old centrist governor who describes himself as a “progressive” and an admirer of Brazil’s model, ran in the last presidential election in October, taking 44 percent of the votes, but was unable to prevent Chavez’s re-election.

While attacking Maduro’s handling of the crisis over Chavez’s cancer, Capriles will try to turn the focus of this month-long election campaign to the many day-to-day problems afflicting Venezuelans, from electricity cuts to crime and an inflation rate that is among the world’s highest.

Maduro, 50, a burly one-time bus driver and union leader who echoes Chavez’s anti-imperialist rhetoric, is sure to make his former boss the centerpiece of his campaign while casting himself as the only heir.

Two opinion polls before Chavez’s death gave Maduro a lead of more than 10 percentage points.

“This is going to be a really tough campaign for us, we know,” said an aide at Capriles’ office in Caracas.

“It’s hard to get everyone enthused and pumped again, we’ve only got a month, and we’re fighting Chavez’s ghost, not Maduro. But believe me, we’ll give it our best.”

Chavez’s death and the imminent vote have eclipsed other pressing issues in Venezuela, including a raft of economic austerity measures the government had been expected to announce.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Mexico Police Investigate Police Link in Shooting Deaths of US Siblings

Deaths of Erica Alvarado Rivera, her brothers and boyfriend as they traveled to visit family is third high-profile case in recent months that links security forces to extrajudicial killings
More

Lawmaker Blasts US Participation in Cuba Ebola Meeting

Mario Diaz-Balart said ALBA, which chaired the meeting, 'was created solely to oppose US interests' and US participation was 'ludicrous'
More

US Coast Guard Rescues 33 Cubans at Sea

Because the overloaded boat did not make landfall, those rescued will be returned to Cuba
More

Western Experts Increasingly Fear Lone Wolf Terror Attacks

Slaying and assault on Canada's parliament building was followed by a hatchet attack on two New York City policemen
More

Search Underway at New Site in Mexico Missing Students Case

This week marked one month since the students went missing after clashing with police in mysterious circumstances
More

Public Transport in Latin America, Asia Most Dangerous for Women

Thousands of women and gender experts were questioned to create the listing
More