News / Americas

Chavez-style Theatrics Heat Up Venezuela Vote

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters after receiving a law which grants him with decree powers in Caracas, Nov. 19, 2013.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters after receiving a law which grants him with decree powers in Caracas, Nov. 19, 2013.
Reuters
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is firing up supporters for the upcoming mayors' election through a theatrical confrontation with businesses that has showered voters with cheap consumer goods, echoing the style of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

The December 8 vote for control of 335 municipalities, ranging from urban hillside slums to isolated villages in sweltering plains, will be the first major test of Maduro's strength after he narrowly won the presidency in April.

A police officer carries his shopping out of a department store, which was forced by the government to cut prices by at least 50 percent on all merchandise after an inspection, in Caracas Nov. 15, 2013.
A police officer carries his shopping out of a department store, which was forced by the government to cut prices by at least 50 percent on all merchandise after an inspection, in Caracas Nov. 15, 2013.
Venezuelans are flooding shops to snatch up discounted car parts, televisions and clothes since Maduro ordered businesses to slash prices in a gambit similar to the oil-financed pre-election largesse of the Chavez era, but with private merchants footing the bill.

"These are the right measures. The shop owners themselves voluntarily lowered prices, which means they are recognizing the products were overpriced,'' said Leonardo Jimenez, a 28-year-old lawyer, in line outside a shop at a prominent Caracas mall. "This is obviously going to have a positive impact on the upcoming elections.''

Pitting working-class consumers against business leaders in the run-up to the vote could help rally Socialist Party sympathizers weary of nagging product shortages and surging inflation that is approaching 55 percent.

Flashy videos on state TV showed ministers denouncing over-pricing by retail chains to a backdrop of thumping dance music, and interviews with shoppers thanking Maduro for protecting them from rapacious capitalists.

People continued to line up at shops around the country even as inventories dwindle and shelves are increasingly bare.

National Guard troops bearing assault rifles and bored expressions keep watch to prevent a repeat of several instances of looting that took place shortly after Maduro's order.

One woman rose to prominence thanks to a photo showing her emerging from a shop with new electronics and a joyful smile. Assuming she had stolen the goods, opposition commentators dubbed her "The Looter.''

The woman, Clotilde Palomino, responded by producing receipts to show she had paid for the goods. Maduro invited her to the presidential palace and cited her as an example of humble Venezuelans who benefited from the measures.

The ruling Socialist Party is likely to proclaim victory if it wins the majority of mayors' seats, but pollsters say that is probable anyway because most municipalities are sparsely populated pro-government areas.

The opposition looks likely to win key metropolitan areas including the capital Caracas and second city, Maracaibo, according to a confidential presentation by one pollster.

Many high-profile pollsters no longer publish their surveys given the furious controversy they create, though they are frequently leaked to private media.

'Don't leave me with nothing!'

Maduro's "economic offensive'' began with the military occupation of an electronics chain and has since included aggressive inspections of thousands of businesses.

Critics call it an act of government-organized looting and say it has punished honest entrepreneurs by forcing them to sell below cost. They predict it will pave the way for more product shortages down the road.

One widely circulated online video shows an electronics merchant shouting, between sobs, that forcing him to mark down his merchandise would ruin him.

"For the love of God, this is an offense. Don't leave me with nothing!'' the man yelled, moments before officials and troops led him away.

Election campaigning officially kicked off on Saturday, but received scant attention amid the rush for cheap goods and Venezuelans' general weariness with marches, speeches and rallies after three elections in just over a year.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Former El Salvador President to Await Graft Trial in Jail, Not at Home

Francisco Flores, who had been on the run until early Sept. before turning himself in, accused of misappropriating $15M in 2001 earthquake relief donations
More

US Won't Impede Venezuela's UN Security Council Bid

Washington is clearly unhappy, however, with idea of country joining the Council, which has the task of overseeing international peace and security
More

Video Dehydration Is Top Killer of Southern Arizona's Migrants

US Border Patrol's search and rescue unit launches 'blue blinking light of life program' - a series of poles strategically placed throughout desert that emit high-intensity blue light
More

US Steps Up Pressure on Guatemala Over Labor Rights

Trade representative says Obama administration will push ahead with legal action under free trade agreement to make country meet international standards
More

Video US Attempts Crackdown on Trafficking Along Southern Border

Nogales, Arizona, notoriously known as 'tunnel city,' used by traffickers to smuggle humans, narcotics into US and Border Patrol responds with new technologies
More

Video Arizona Non-Profit Helps Keep Dehydrated Migrants Alive

The Sonoran Desert, a common crossing point for illegal immigrants, is one of North America's hottest places
More