Mérida, May 15th 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Government representatives and private media have said opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles’ campaign is “stagnating” as he fails to gain support, while journalists also marched yesterday protesting violent attacks committed against them by Capriles’ supporters.
Violence against public media journalists
Journalists with the National System of Public Media marched yesterday in Caracas to demand an end to violent acts by opposition supporters against them during Capriles’ electoral campaign events.
In March opposition members attacked journalists of Catatumbo Television, a Zulia state based public station, while Capriles was doing a campaign tour of a Zulia municipality. The crew was threatened, their camera and microphone knocked to the ground, and their watch was taken.
The same month, Capriles supporters attacked a VTV journalist in Tachira state during a rally for Capriles, and public Caracas station Avila TV journalist Llafrancis Colina also denounced opposition legislator Richard Mardo for physically assaulting her during a rally for Capriles.
Further, last week a journalist and a cameraman with VTV were attacked in a Capriles’ campaign meeting in Barinas state. Bodyguards of the local opposition mayor seized their camera as they filmed some supporters drinking alcohol, and according to the cameraman, Dani Vargas, hit him on his body and face a number of times.
Harim Rodriguez, of the Necessary Journalism movement said, “The attacks are aimed at critical journalists who show that Capriles doesn’t represent the people”.
The marching journalists handed over a document to the Ombudsman’s Office and the public prosecutor requesting an investigation, and the attorney general’s office has assigned a public prosecutor to the case.
In response Capriles said he “rejected” violence but that some people in the public media had “provoked” his followers in order to be able to accuse him of violence.
Capriles’ campaign “stagnating”
Minister for electricity, Hector Navarro, told the press that the opposition’s “violent behaviour” was a result of the low poll results.
Both private and public poll companies are placing voting intention for Hugo Chavez 22 to 27 points higher than for Capriles, a trend that has changed little since Capriles ran in the opposition’s primaries in February, to then become their candidate.
Local and foreign private press have also noted Capriles’ “stagnation”, with a Reuter’s article arguing that, “Capriles is stagnating and far from the current president in the majority of polls, he has even dropped a few points in some”.
One poll which opposition media Globovision quoted to show that Capriles "would win" and which gave Chavez 44.87% support and Capriles 46.13%, turned out to be a fake company. When RNV journalists looked up the business registration number of Consultares e Imagen Profesional FPD, it corresponded to a fund which doesn't exist.
Capriles’ campaign and his promises “aren’t capturing the attention of Venezuelans” said Reuters, “His biggest political announcement so far – the promise to create 3 million jobs in six years – received little attention in newspaper headlines and in the street”. The current government launched a knowledge and work social mission late last year with thousands already in training and an aim of creating 2.8 million jobs in eight years.
Capriles has also campaigned in favour of a law to regulate the social missions, in order to give them “constitutional standing”. His other main campaign points have been “no more expropriations”, and the issue of crime, in which he says that he will use “all the power of the state to resolve the problem of violence, including the national armed forces”.
Venezuelan opposition paper Tal Cual has called Capriles’ campaign “boring”, with one of its commentators, Oscar Schemel arguing, “his strategy isn’t working because there’s been no growth in Henrique Capriles’ candidacy, while Chavez’s illness has hyper-personalised the electoral debate, only Chavez is talked about”.
Opposition analyst Orlando Viera, with Lapatilla.com has also said that Capriles is “stagnating”, blaming the situation not on “lack of effort or image” but on not making enough political criticism of the current government.
Members of the main parties that make up the opposition alliance, MUD, met yesterday without reaching consensus on how to present themselves on the ballot paper. The majority of parties were in favour of a single ticket, while Primera Justicia (First Justice) and Podemos (We Can) supported a united ticket, in which all party symbols would appear on the ballot paper.
MAS leader Felipe Mujica said the single ticket would be ideal for those who “have voted for president Hugo Chavez but are disappointed [with him] and don’t want to link themselves with any political party”.
MUD has until 11 June to decide, when they have to have registered Capriles as candidate with the National Electoral Council. Electoral campaigning is legally allowed from 1 July.
MUD alliance with Uribe
Last week Capriles asked Venezuelans living in Colombia to campaign there for him, while he was in Bogota meeting with Venezuelan residents and fugitives. Among them, according to Radio Mundial, was Pedro Carmona, who has been living there since he swore himself in as president during the April 2002 coup attempt, was arrested, escaped house arrest, and sought refuge in the Colombian embassy, which later gave him asylum.
MUD representatives have also held a number of meetings with ex-Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, seeking his advice. Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, said Uribe would be campaigning against Chavez among the border towns.
Capriles however, has also told the press that he has called on Uribe to “not intervene in the Venezuelan electoral process”, while head of the pro-Chavez electoral campaign, Jorge Rodriguez said that Uribe “is the new opposition leader” and reminded the press that the national coordinator of the opposition campaign, Leopoldo Lopez, met with Uribe in December. At the time Lopez was expecting to compete in the opposition primaries.
MUD has also put out a statement rejecting current president Juan Santos’ position regarding Chavez. Santos has said that Chavez is a “guarantee of stability”. Though he is as conservative as Uribe, he has pushed, together with Chavez, for the re-establishment and strengthening of Colombian-Venezuelan relations, after they were ruptured in August 2010 under Uribe.