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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    Venezuela's Top Beer Maker Halts Output in Dispute with Government

    President threatened earlier in week to seize any plants halted by private companies and hand them over to workers

    US Reports Its First Zika-Related Death

    Puerto Rican man in his 70s died from internal bleeding related to rare immune reaction to Zika virus infection in February

    Rio Olympic Flame Visits UN Office in Geneva

    Flame, which was lit in Greece last week, was brought to UN for first time before it heads to Brazil for torch relay ahead of opening ceremony in Rio on Aug. 5

    Britain Foreign Secretary Visits Cuba for First Time in Nearly 60 Years

    Philip Hammond signed several cooperation agreements on energy, education and financial services

    In 'Papa,' Hemingway Returns to Cuba via Silver Screen

    Film about Nobel Prize-winning author is first full-length Hollywood feature produced on island since 1959 Cuban Revolution

    Victims of Chile Colony Hope German Documents Bring Justice

    For three decades beginning in 1961, the enclave of Colonia Dignidad, or Dignity Colony, founded by Paul Schaefer, was the site of torture, slavery and child abuse