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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

New $9.15B Airport for Mexico City to Quadruple Passenger Capacity

New international airport will eventually handle 120 million passengers a year, President Enrique Pena Nieto said in his annual state-of-the-nation address
More

Venezuelan Socialist Party Swaps God for Chavez in New Prayer

Delegate Maria Estrella Uribe recites 'prayer' on Monday at PSUV party Congress to implore beloved late leader for protection from evils of capitalism
More

Tropical Storms Bear Down on Mexico From Both Coasts

Two separate storms risk a double hit on country a year after pair of storms converged to cause major flooding that killed over 100 people
More

Mixed Signals on Second Migrant Wave at US Border

Number of Central Americans apprehended at the border peaked in June, but reports from migrants indicate more might be on the way
More

Cuba Enacts New Rules to Restrict Imports

New rules increase duties on items such as televisions, limit the number of personal items air travelers can bring to Cuba and increase duties on mailed packages
More

Nicaragua Rescuers Save 20 Miners; Search Continues

Wall of mud, rocks trap miners at El Comal site in Bonanza, 420 kilometers northeast of Managua
More