Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Tensions Rise in Venezuela Ahead of Sunday’s Elections

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Tensions have continued to heighten in Venezuela just days before Sunday’s presidential election between President Hugo Chávez and Henrique Capriles Radonski.

Electoral law prohibits opinion polls from being published four days ahead of the Venezuelan elections, but the most recent polling results reveal markedly different figures. Datanalisis has Chávez polling at 49 percent compared to Capriles’ 39 percent, while Consultores 21 poll shows Capriles in the lead with 47.7 percent versus Chávez’ 45.9 percent.

Despite assurances to the contrary from the Chávez-dominated National Electoral Council, some suspect their ballots won’t be kept confidential. This is due in part to la Lista de Tascón, a private list of some 2 million people who had supported a 2004 plebiscite against President Chávez that was later publicly released by Venezuelan deputy Luis Tascón. Many state employees whose names appeared on the list were subsequently dismissed. Maribel Rodríguez, a 42-year-old homemaker who lives in the poor neighborhood of Catia west of the capital said, “My husband tells me he is obliged to vote for Chávez because he works with the government. What sort of democracy do we have?” The Venezuelan government currently employs at least 2.4 million people.

Motivated by Chavez’ daily assertions that his opponent will remove social benefits such as medical treatment, subsidized food and other components that have provided relief to the underprivileged, some citizens fear violence might occur if the incumbent loses the election. Government officials are fearful of losing their prominent position of power, facing criminal investigations or losing influence overnight if their patron is voted out of office.


Tags: Henrique Capriles Radonski, Hugo Chavez
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