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Clash between Capriles and Workers Key Battle of Venezuelan State Elections

Mérida, 26th October 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Governor of Miranda state and former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles has come into conflict with his administrations’ public sector workers, as he and Chavez ally Elias Jaua prepare to contest  the Miranda governorship in the 16 December regional elections.

Accusations

Last Sunday Capriles opened a new fire station and medical centre in Miranda state, where he hopes to be re-elected as governor following his defeat in the presidential elections by Hugo Chavez earlier this month. In those elections Capriles received narrowly less votes than Chavez in Miranda state.

During the opening ceremony, Capriles stated that such services were evidence of the promotion of de-politicised and decentralised public institutions under his governorship. Referring to the upcoming state elections, he claimed that, “There are those coming, not to keep this growing, but to liquidate it, if they [Chavez supporters] arrived [to the Miranda state government] this would be closed, passed on to central government”.

The opposition governor then rounded on Miranda state fire-fighters, and warned them against “politicising” the fire service. He declared, “I say to fire-fighters, those who want to play politics, I don’t know if you’re trying to destroy your institution… but it’s not dignified to destroy the institution you work for”.

“Whoever tries to politicise it does so in the full knowledge that the first person they’re going to face is the governor”, he continued. Capriles then went on to claim that “while I’m governor, the future here is more fire stations, better socio-economic conditions, and strengthening institutions and professionalism”.

Response

Representatives of fire fighters in Miranda have responded angrily to Capriles’ accusations, which they say were in reaction to protests by fire service staff against the failure to pay benefits and bonuses by Capriles’ administration.

In comments to state media on Tuesday, Fire Corporal Erick Vera criticised Capriles’ attack as a “false speech, where he also showed his rancour toward active staff who undertook the hunger strike [against the Miranda state government] for labour reasons and not political ones as he insists”.

In July this year Miranda state fire fighters protested for better salaries and benefits due from 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Meanwhile, Fire Sergeant Miguel Castellano described Capriles’ accusation as “drastic” and argued, “Right from the start we made clear that our protest was with institutional aims and for improvements to fire stations that hadn’t been carried out in four years [of the Capriles state governorship]".

Further criticisms of Capriles’ management were launched yesterday, in response to comments made by the Miranda governor that he would be unable to pay state government employees their end of year bonuses, due to not receiving enough money from the national government.

In declarations to press, Oliver Piñero, representing Miranda state’s 1600 fire-fighters, rejected Capriles’ claim, declaring, “We know that, as in previous years, they [the Capriles administration] receive the funds and then they divert them”. He further charged Capriles with trying to “create a climate of opinion against the Bolivarian government…to cast the blame on the central government”.

Teaching and administrative staff of Miranda state made similar declarations, with Osman Cherubini of a pro-Chavez teaching union stating that “we already know that the National Assembly and the Finance Ministry transferred the necessary funds to all state governments”.

Campaign

The conflict comes in the lead up to the 16 December state elections, where candidates for President Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) will compete against representatives of the opposition Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition, among others.

The central state of Miranda is set to be a key battleground, with Capriles seeking re-election against a challenge from Elias Jaua, who until recently was the national vice-president. Campaigning begins on 1 November.

Yesterday Jaua met with representatives from communal councils and social organisations in a municipality of Miranda to receive proposals and discuss projects, as part of debate and organisation around Chavez’s Socialist Plan of the Nation for 2013-2019.

The PSUV candidate for Miranda took the opportunity during the meeting to criticise Capriles, saying “we can’t bear four more years of excuses”. He said that Capriles had received all the necessary funding from the national government, and must “be held accountable” to his administration’s employees.

Jaua argued that Capriles was “a governor who made himself absent for two years, first for the [opposition] primaries and then in his desperate and obsessive effort to arrive at the presidency. Now he’s realising the disaster in financial management he’s facing”. Jaua further stated that his own election as Miranda’s governor would bring “dignity to work and efficient management”.

Jaua’s candidacy also received the support of the Labour Power party this week, whose secretary general, Reina Sequera, stood against Chavez in the presidential elections.

In an interview with pro-government paper Correo del Orinoco, Sequera confirmed that her party was standing nine candidates against the PSUV in the regional elections. However, she explained that “we’ve made the exception in Miranda state with Elias Jaua, because Henrique Capriles can’t be governor again”.

She accused Capriles’ administration of “being used exclusively for the benefit of the group that surrounds Capriles, meanwhile they’ve forgotten the working and vulnerable people of Miranda”.

Published on Oct 26th 2012 at 11.56pm