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Electoral Campaign in Venezuela Advances, Chavez Rejects Opposition's Neoliberal Package

Caracas, September 11th 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Current Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has strongly criticised a leaked document from the country's political opposition, the MUD, (Roundtable of Democratic Unity) which proposes a number of privatisations and the elimination of many of the present government's social programs. The Venezuelan head of state made the comments at a political rally last Sunday in Charallave, in the opposition controlled Miranda state.

Speaking to a crowd of thousands of people, the president hit out at the opposition for having concealed its real economic plans from the Venezuelan electorate and accused the coalition of having a hidden agenda. He pointed out that the leaked plan bears little resemblance to the summary of the opposition's proposed economic policy, which was released to the public in January

“Behind his [opposition candidate, Capriles Radonski] democratic mask is the most horrendous thing in politics. Behind his deceptive message of progress and social welfare is the most savage neoliberal capitalist package that has been known in Venezuela and Latin America,” said the president.

The leaked document has been branded the “packetazo” by the national press, in reference to the series of economic restructuring measures implemented by president Carlos Andres Perez in 1989, which led to some of the most bloody riots the country has ever seen. The riots are commonly known as the “Caracazo”.

“We have to discover the hidden packetazo, a powerful reason for us to give a knock-out to the neoliberal program which will never again be implemented in Venezuela,” said Chavez.

The MUD's presidential candidate, Capriles Radonski, has denied signing the economic pact and has stated that his signature on the document is a forgery.

During Sunday's rally, Chavez went on to call on supporters to turn out in droves on election day October 7th to “break the ceiling” of 10 million votes and to “demolish the extreme-right wing” in the country. He also stated that Venezuela needed a “serious” political opposition capable of challenging the current government.

“Venezuela needs a right wing political opposition that really are politicians, that are serious and with real leaders. Not a man like this who doesn't even respect workers and who disrespects women,” he said.

Radonski recently caused controversy by calling public sector workers “ass kissers” and by organizing what his campaign team termed a “panty-thon;” a public meeting with Venezuelan women where the candidate responded to their questions and concerns. Women's organizations were highly critical of the event, and particularly its name, which they denounced as being disrespectful to women.

“He (Capriles) is permanently trying to discredit women,” said member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and second vice-president of the National Assembly, Blanca Eekhout,   who pointed out that Venezuelan women were “emblematic” for the revolutionary process and represent the “largest proportion of communal councils and missions”.

The vice-president also described the “panty-thon” as “shameful” and demanded respect on behalf of Venezuelan women.

“The women of Venezuela cannot be reduced to a fetish, to a thing, an object or an object for sexual use... we cannot be reduced to a pair of panties,” said Eekhout.

The “panty-thon” comes just a few weeks after Capriles also interrupted a speech in Carabobo state to make remarks about women's physical appearance.

“I'm impressed with how beautiful the women are,” said Capriles, "At times, you stop here and you have some girls in front and you start to look at them and you lose your concentration,” he said.

The presidential hopeful has so far been unable to bridge the gap between himself and the candidacy of Hugo Chavez, who has consistently maintained a 20% lead over his opponent. The country's most recent political poll on voting intention, released by private company Consultores 30.11 at the beginning of the week, found that 56.5% of the Venezuelan electorate would vote for Chavez  whilst 34.4% would vote for Capriles if the elections were held this week.

Violence

Sunday's political events were also marred by controversy after the opposition aborted a planned march through the working class zone of La Pastora in Caracas. According to Capriles, the rally was cancelled due to the presence of “armed groups” who prevented the opposition from entering the zone.

Despite the cancellation, some opposition supporters decided to continue with the march and allegedly came into conflict with journalists from the National System for Public Media (SNMP) who were covering the event.

Lorena Benetiz, a journalist from the SNMP, said that the group she was with were threatened by members of the opposition, who threw liquid at them and tried to take Benitz's phone.

“This woman, in the company of another two people, attacked me. They grabbed and hit me and they continued to attack me verbally,” said Benetiz, whose ordeal was captured on camera by journalists from community based television channel, Avila TV.

Both presidential candidates are coming to the end of a campaign trail which has taken them to communities throughout the country. Although violence has been minimal, there have been several attacks by the opposition against community journalists and organizers, including the recent shooting of a farmhand on a government supported agricultural production collective by a Globovision journalist.

Supporters of the opposition have also been chased out of working-class neighbourhoods by community organizations.

Published on Sep 11th 2012 at 11.50am