Un día después de las elecciones presidenciales de octubre de 2012, Venezuela abrazaba la idea de un diálogo: con 1,6 millones de votos encima, el presidente electo Hugo Chávez, pasó de la arrogancia y telefoneó a su contendor, Henrique Capriles Radonski, para homenajear su vocación demócrata reflejada al reconocer—en minutos—su derrota electoral.
Dos días después de las primeras elecciones presidenciales del chavismo sin Chávez, el escenario es otro. Con un margen reducido a 235 mil votos entre Nicolás Maduro y Henrique Capriles, la conciliación, entre una mayoría que no quiere dejar de ser poder y una minoría frustrada que casi pudo tocar con los dedos la silla presidencial, parece una quimera.
El domingo en la noche, Venezuela vivió momentos de tensión durante las cinco horas que corrieron entre el cierre de los centros de votación y el anuncio de los resultados.
Casi 19 millones de venezolanos fueron a las urnas el pasado domingo 14 de abril, convencidos de que se jugaban “el futuro de la patria.” El resultado fue una votación dividida en la cual Capriles consiguió superar el umbral de los 7 millones de votos, mientras que Maduro perdió 7,5 por ciento de la base que apoyó a Chávez en los últimos comicios. La primera conclusión que emergió del balance es que, con la salida del polémico líder, casi 700 mil votos abandonaron el autobús conducido por Maduro y abordaron el “del progreso” que impulsaba Capriles.
Apenas el Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) terminó su transmisión oficial, el presidente electo salió del Palacio de Gobierno para festejar el primer triunfo del chavismo sin Chávez, sólo que esta victoria sabía a derrota. Decenas de simpatizantes del llamado proceso revolucionario se fueron en desbandada sin terminar de escuchar el primer discurso de Maduro en calidad de presidente electo. La euforia que generó saberse ganadores se desvaneció al entender que los “escuálidos”—adjetivoque usaba Chávez para descalificar a la oposición haciéndola ver como débil—no sólo se multiplicaron, sino que casi alcanzaron las riendas del país.
Nicolás Maduro’s election victory was certified by the National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral—CNE) on Monday in the midst of claims by the Venezuelan opposition of electoral fraud during Sunday’s presidential election. Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has refused to recognize the outcome of the election and thousands of opposition members are protesting the results.
CNE President Tibisay Lucena declared the outcome of Sunday’s election “irreversible,” but opposition leaders, led by Capriles, have called on their followers to protest peacefully and demand the electoral authority’s total recount of the votes. “This is the moment of reason, not of emotion,” Capriles said, after Maduro accused the opposition of trying to undo the will of the country’s democratic majority.
Sunday’s elections gave Maduro—Hugo Chávez’s handpicked successor—a victory by a slim margin of 234,935 votes. On Monday, the CNE released a second report which revealed a slight increase in the number of votes obtained by Maduro—from 7,505,338 to 7,559,349 votes. This raises his margin of victory to 262,473 votes.
The international community has also weighed in on the results of Sunday’s election, and several prominent public figures have called for a recount. Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza expressed concern for the deep political polarization in Venezuela and offered the OAS’ institutional support to conduct a recount process. Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Garcia-Margallo also called on Venezuelan election officials to conduct a rapid recount
On Monday afternoon, thousands of young protesters clashed with National Guard troops, who blocked them from marching in the streets of Caracas. Protests are continuing today with rival rallies expected to take place in Caracas and other provincial cities. Tomorrow, Capriles’ followers are planning to march to the CNE headquarters in the capital to demand a recount.
A petition on whitehouse.gov was started on Monday to “call upon the International Community to urge that a full recount of votes be done in Venezuela’s presidential elections.” It has collected 72,000 signatures of the 100,000 required before the Obama administration is required to produce a formal response. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Monday that a recount is "an important, prudent and necessary step.”
After narrowly defeating Henrique Capriles in a hotly-contested presidential election (Capriles is demanding a recount), Venezuelan President-elect Nicolás Maduro will soon have to turn to a more threatening foe: the nation’s economy.
In a time of high commodity prices, why is one of the world’s top oil exporters facing such dire straits?
A lot of it has to do with Hugo Chávez’s socialist legacy.
For years, Venezuela has had a fixed exchange-rate regime. The Chávez administration, eager to control every aspect of life in Venezuela, decided who got how many dollars, and at what prices. Currently, the fixed exchange rate is 6.3 bolívars (BsF) per dollar. A parallel “auction” system is selling dollars at BsF 12, and the black-market rate currently hovers around BsF 23 per dollar.
These deep distortions are the reason why Venezuelans are suffering some of their worst shortages in years. Long accustomed to subsidized greenbacks for importing nearly everything, Venezuelans now find dollars harder to come by. However, the government has other priorities: oil production is stuck or declining, and with the nation’s refineries in bad shape, Venezuela needs to import refined products such as gasoline, which the government practically gives away for free.
Importers lucky enough to access dollars at the BsF 6.3 rate find it very tempting to sell the same dollars at the black market rate instead of using them for their intended use—importing basic staples. That is one of the main reasons why Venezuelans´ shelves are empty.
Untangling this economic crisis will require the skills of a deft politician—something Maduro clearly is not. Likewise, doing away with the regressive gasoline subsidies that threaten to bring down the state’s finances will require a national consensus that seems impossible right now. Meanwhile, generating enough confidence to spruce up private investment is simply not in the cards for Venezuela.
Mr. Maduro is likely to find that Mr. Capriles and the pot-banging opposition are the least of his problems.
Durante la última década los venezolanos han vivido cada contienda electoral como una batalla en la que se juegan la vida o la muerte. Tal vez influenciados por el peso del pasado libertario, o por continuar bajo la mirada de una docena de próceres cuyas efigies aún se alzan en la explanada militar que antecede al principal fuerte de la capital, en la Venezuela de estos días los ciudadanos están inmersos en “una lucha” o “una cruzada”, dependiendo de la tendencia política de preferencia.
Este domingo 14 de abril, casi 15 millones de electores decidieron quien gobernará el país por los próximos seis años. A 39 días de la muerte del ex presidente, Hugo Chávez, los venezolanos se debatieron entre continuar el legado del polémico líder, dando un voto de confianza en su “hijo” político, o iniciar un viraje de la mano del opositor Henrique Capriles Radonski, quien ya fuese derrotado por Chávez en los pasados comicios presidenciales de octubre de 2012.
Durante la frenética campaña electoral de 10 días, ambos candidatos recorrieron el país, visitando hasta tres estados diferentes por día. El discurso, centrado en ataques de índole personal e invocaciones emocionales, careció de propuestas para temas centrales que afectan a la Venezuela contemporánea: inseguridad, desabastecimiento de alimentos y productos, inflación y fallas en los servicios.
De lejos, es la inseguridad el principal reclamo de los venezolanos. El año pasado, de acuerdo con cifras del Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia—ONG especialidad en criminalidad— 21.692 personas fueron asesinadas en el país, elevando la tasa de homicidios a 73 por cada 100 mil, casi el triple de países como México o Brasil. Por su parte, el Ministerio de Interior y Justicia habla de 16 mil.
The whirlwind presidential campaign between Nicolás Maduro and Henrique Capriles Radonski is now officially over in Venezuela. After a rapid 10 days of marches and packed political rallies, the campaign closed Thursday night as hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans gathered in streets across the country in massive displays of support for each of the rival candidates.
Maduro, the chosen successor of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez who inherits Chávez’s ruling political party, the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela—PSUV), closed his campaign in Caracas, filling seven of the largest avenues in the capital city with supporters from all over the country.
Capriles, the former governor of the state of Miranda and now the unrivaled leader of the Venezuelan opposition, finished his race in Barquisimeto, the capital of one of three states currently held by the opposition, in what was the largest public event to ever take place in that part of the country.
Now the campaign is over and Venezuelans around the world wait anxiously to vote on Sunday.
El 8 de diciembre de 2012, algo cambió en Venezuela. En una alocución pública nacional, Hugo Chávez anunció al país su partida a Cuba para someterse a una operación delicada, justo dos meses después de haber sido reelecto como presidente. Intuyendo lo que podría suceder ante su ausencia, designó como candidato presidencial de su partido a Nicolás Maduro, quien en ese momento fungía como vicepresidente de la República.
Todo parecía indicar que pronto habría nuevas elecciones. Tres meses después, el 5 de marzo de 2013, se anunció el fallecimiento de Hugo Chávez y el inicio de un nuevo período electoral presidencial en menos de 12 meses.
La nueva campaña electoral tuvo una característica inusual: se produjo tras la muerte de un presidente, hecho no antes visto en la historia democrática de Venezuela. Los días de funeral y entierro se utilizaron como el inicio de una campaña que busca conectar sentimentalmente a la base chavista con el candidato Nicolás Maduro, quien a pesar de ser designado personalmente como el sucesor, carece del carisma y el discurso de Hugo Chávez. La promesa de campaña ha sido la de mantener el legado revolucionario y apoyarse en el culto naciente, casi religioso alrededor de la figura de Chávez.
El gran reto de ambos sectores es el de movilizar a las bases del 7 de octubre. El candidato que logre esto con mayor eficiencia, será el ganador de esta contienda, pues en una campaña tan corta no hay mucho tiempo para convencer con propuestas, sino de utilizar elementos que reflejan el “todo o nada.” En solo 10 días de campaña, el esfuerzo comunicacional de ambos comandos a través de los medios de comunicación será determinante para llevar sus mensajes lo más lejos posible.
Top stories this week are likely to include: U.S. Senators hope to introduce immigration reform bill this week; the Brazilian Federal Police will investigate whether Lula had a role in the mensalão scandal; Pablo Neruda’s body will be examined for signs of poisoning; Venezuela’s opposition rallies in Caracas; and the FARC bring extra peace negotiators to Cuba.
“Gang of Eight” Hoping for Immigration Bill by End of the Week: U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Sunday that the bipartisan group of senators working on a comprehensive immigration reform bill may have legislation ready to present to lawmakers by the end of this week. The bill is expected to provide for a wide range of reforms, including strengthened border security, a new guest-worker program and a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Schumer said a best-case scenario could bring the bill up for a vote as early as May after it goes through the Judiciary Committee. On Wednesday, April 10, a rally in support of immigration reform is expected to draw tens of thousands to the U.S. Capitol. http://www.voxxi.com/unprecedented-rally-immigration-reform/
Lula to be investigated in Mensalão scandal: Brazil’s Federal Prosecutor has ordered an investigation into allegations by businessman Marcos Valério that former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was involved in the mensalão scandal, a 2005 vote-buying scheme involving members of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party—PT) and others. Valério was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison last year for his role in the scandal. This weekend, the Federal Prosecutor ordered the Federal Police to investigate Valério’s accusation. Lula has denied all involvement in the scandal.
Pablo Neruda’s Body to be Examined: Chilean forensic investigators will exhume the body of Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda today to determine whether Chile’s military regime had eliminated Neruda when he died in 1973. Neruda, a communist, allegedly died of cancer just 12 days after the September 11, 1973, coup that installed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. However, his former driver, Manuel Araya, claimed that a doctor gave Neruda a lethal injection on the day of his death. In February, a Chilean court ordered that Neruda’s body be examined for signs of poisoning. Results are not expected for another three months.
Venezuelan Opposition Rallies in Caracas: Tens of thousands of Venezuelans marched in Caracas on Sunday to express their support for opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles in the lead-up to Venezuela’s April 14 presidential election. Polls indicate that Venezuela’s interim president, Nicolás Maduro, enjoys a 10-percentage point lead over Capriles. Over the weekend, Maduro made headlines in Amazonas state when he invoked the “curse of Maracapana” on those who vote for his rival, and also accused “Central American mercenaries” of plotting to kill him.
FARC Negotiators Bring in Reinforcements: The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) announced Sunday that rebel leader Pablo Catatumbo (Jorge Torres Victoria) arrived in Havana with other members of the guerilla group to reinforce the negotiating team during peace talks with the Colombian government. Catatumbo has allegedly been critical of leading FARC negotiator Iván Marquez (Luciano Marín Arango). Last Thursday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that the government would not engage in a bilateral ceasefire with the FARC until the two sides reach a final agreement. The next round of peace talks is scheduled to begin on April 18.
The day Steve Jobs died after a much-publicized battle with cancer, Apple’s shares rose in what analysts called “a tribute” to the company’s late founder. The next year, Apple’s stock continued its climb, making Apple the most valued company ever as a measure of market capitalization. Jobs’ successor, Tim Cook, had long been preparing for this moment, assuring the market that he could handle the company after Jobs was gone.
Yet, as time goes by, Apple, its shareholders, Cook, and millions of Apple customers around the world are painfully reminded that there can only be one Steve Jobs.
This lesson could be instructive to Venezuela’s interim president, Nicolás Maduro, as he faces the daunting task of preserving the Bolivarian revolution without the charisma of its colorful founder.
Maduro’s short-term strategy may seem obvious: win the elections against a confused opposition and extend the life of la revolución, using the Chávez brand in a sort of political halo-effect. The long-term strategy is less clear, however. Even if Maduro wins and the government’s popularity increases in the near future, Maduro must eventually face the harsh realization that he is not Chávez, and that pretending to be him is easier said than done.
This does not need to be a tragedy for the Venezuelan government. It can be viewed as an opportunity to upgrade the revolution, as Deng Xiaoping once did with China. Meanwhile, the opposition must also learn to manage the revolution, instead of simply fighting it. If not, animosity will once again cloud rational judgment.
Tuesday marks the official start of Venezuela’s 10-day campaign ahead of the April 14 presidential election. The election will be a choice between interim President Nicolás Maduro and Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles—both of whom have been unofficially campaigning for weeks.
Maduro, Chávez’ political heir, has vowed to honor the late president’s socialist legacy and is campaigning on a spiritual message, committing to follow the steps of his “father.” This election poses a new challenge for chavismo, which for the first time will attempt to retain the presidency without the charismatic presence of its late leader.
Capriles, the candidate of the Coalition for Democratic Unity (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica—MUD), is basing his campaign on the premise that “Maduro is not Chávez.” He is associating Maduro with the country’s corrupt and unstable environment and is criticizing the government for having to implement two currency devaluations in less than 60 days.
Both candidates were expected to kick off their respective campaigns today in Barinas state, where Chávez was born in 1954. On Sunday, after Maduro accused Capriles of seeking to provoke violence by cheduling his first rally in the same state, Capriles announced that he would move the rally to Monagas state. He will campaign in Barinas on Wednesday. Capriles also joined thousands of his followers in a nighttime walk on Monday night to protest against violence and insecurity in Caracas.
In less than two weeks, 18.9 million Venezuelans are eligible to vote for a second time in six months. Although much has changed since Chávez’ victory in October, chavismo is still leading the polls. Local polling firms Datanalisis and Hinterlaces give Maduro a more than 10 percentage point lead over Capriles; other studies indicate that Capriles is trailing by a smaller gap than what was observed in the October presidential election.
Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Rodonski said on Monday that if he wins the presidential election on April 14, he will stop sending 100,000 barrels a day of oil to Cuba and other countries in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). “Not one more drop of oil will go to help finance the Castro regime,” Capriles said at a political rally in the Zulia state.
Capriles went on to criticize Hugo Chávez’s successor and current interim president, Nicolás Maduro, as “Raúl Castro’s candidate,” and said that Havana is just using Venezuela to buoy the Castro regime. Capriles’ comments come in stark contrast to those of his opponent, Maduro, who has pledged Venezuela’s ongoing political and economic support for Cuba, saying his government will “remain firm” on the issue. In return, Cuba sends 40,000 doctors and other professionals to Venezuela.
The National Electoral Council (CNE) set the April 14 date for the election due to a clause in the constitution that requires the election to be called 30 days after the death of the sitting president. Capriles lost to Chávez in last October’s general election by 11 percentage points, and will be looking to remobilize his base in the coming weeks. However, chavista control over Venezuela’s political infrastructure and media, coupled with an outpouring of support following Chávez’ death, have given Maduro a 14-percentage point lead over his opponent, according to the first major poll published in anticipation of the election.