ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Face à Chavez, la droite avance masquée
by Cathy Ceïbe
Translated Friday 5 October 2012, by Derek Hansonand reviewed by
Maracay (State of Aragua), Caracas (Venezuela), special envoy: On October 7th, the Venezuelan president is to seek a new mandate to govern. His opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski, hopes to win over the popular vote by presenting himself as a champion of the centre left
In a hive of activity, activists of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela flood in and out of the party headquarters in Maracay. Few days now remain. On October 7th, Hugo Chavez is to seek a new mandate 14 years after his first election in 1998. No less than 3,000 supporters are at work in the State of Aragua, an important industrial area 100 kilometres from Caracas. Even if polls still indicate that the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution is likely to win re-election, the margin between him and his opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski, is narrowing (49% to 39%, according to latest figures).
Confident, Juan Carlos Luna, director of electoral and strategic organisation in this state highlights the importance of “giving meaning to the struggle” against a neoliberal rival with a “hidden agenda,” a programme that the Chavists have likened to a structural adjustment programme. Endorsed by Capriles last January, this programme has disappeared entirely from the official campaign. “Were it to be implemented, it would constitute a return to 1989, when Carlos Andrés Pérez [president at the time – NDLR] implemented an IMF programme that led to the caracazo [a wave of protests and riots].” This first popular revolt in Latin America faced bloodthirsty repression. “The Venezuelans will always remember these events,” continued the socialist leader, “the people are starting to become aware of what is at stake: on the one hand there is a socialist project, on the other one that is capitalist and neoliberal, that the opposition hopes to impose.”
In the eyes of the presidential majority, this project would mark an end to advances in health, education and social equality that have led to a retraction in poverty levels (which stood at 55% in 1988, against 27% today). Comments by the MUD and its candidate attempt to divert from this issue. Henrique Capriles Radonski has taken care to avoid the frontal tactics of his predecessors who, in previous elections, have been wiped away by the popularity of Hugo Chavez.
Capriles Radonski, son of a multibillionaire
This fervent Catholic of forty years of age, son of a multibillionaire, wishes to present himself as a champion of the political centre left. On Sunday in Caracas, on the occasion of the last of his campaign meetings in the capital city that brought together thousands of people, the governor of the State of Miranda put himself forward as a proponent of “change” against an opponent who would “deceive the people”. Without using the name of Hugo Chavez, Capriles attempted to win over the 12% of undecided voters, and in particular those from the popular classes who would normally lean in favour of the incumbent president. The people remember how since 1998, they and he have taken part in a “process of change to struggle against corruption, and to implement a new constitution.” “There was a lot of hope,” said Capriles before a compacted crowed, highlighting the real issue of insecurity, “today, I say to those who believe in these projects but who are aware that things go badly, set this right, and reclaim what is due!”