Adrian Kane, Sector Organiser with SIPTU travelled to Venezuela as an observer during the recent Presidential Election. Here is his report:
The Chavistas started gathering in central Caracas from mid-afternoon on polling day, Sunday Oct 7. The polling stations were not due to close until after 6pm, but the largely young, red-clad supporters of Hugo Chavez were confident that their ‘commandante’ would be returned. Above the blaring of the Latino rhythms, the cry from the streets that greeted the 2002 coup, ‘Chavez no se Va!, (Chavez isn’t going anywhere) could be heard. I was at a polling station in down-town Caracas as part of an international group of observers, monitoring the Presidential Election. The votes were breaking heavily in favour of Henrique Capriles Rodanski, (the United Opposition candidate) in the boxes from the middle class areas of Caracas but Chavez was ahead in the poorer parts, however, Capriles appeared to have made some in-roads in these areas as well. The key to who would ultimately win the presidency was the degree to which Capriles could eat into Chavez support amongst the urban and rural poor of Venezuela.
The campaign run by Capriles was a much smarter campaign than that of the previous opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales, in 2006. Rosales campaign was viciously anti-Chavez; one newspaper I had witnessed on that occasion had a split page advertisement purporting to show the choice facing Venezuelan electors under the respective candidates; on the left was a picture of a family under a Chavez-led administration, dressed in military fatigues touting Kalashnikovs, on the right was a family sitting looking studiously at the monitor of a lap-top, a virtual picture of familial bliss. In this election Capriles ran on a centre-left platform. He acknowledged some of the successes under the Chavez presidency, such as poverty been cut by half and extreme poverty by 70%, huge increases in access to health and education for the poor. He promised, however, to integrate ‘the mission model’ for the delivery of social services into the mainstream public service. He promised more industrial development and the end of the oil-for-doctors programme with Cuba, advocating the training of Venezuelan doctors instead. His campaign slogans were more subtle also; Hay un Camino (There is a Way) and ‘14 years is enough’ were prominent on most of his posters and political advertisements.