Venezuelan Presidential Candidate Profile #3: Reinaldo Quijada

Dissident Chavista Quijada wants to return to the “original” political direction of Hugo Chavez.

Reinaldo Quijada interviewed on private news channel Globovisión
Reinaldo Quijada interviewed on private news channel Globovisión

What is his background?

Born in Geneva whilst his father was stationed there as UN ambassador, Quijada (58) grew up in Milan and London before being brought back to Caracas when he was 11. He speaks Italian, English and French, apart from his native Spanish.

His father, Manuel Quijada, was active in the 1961 Porteñazo military rebellion in addition to serving as a member of the 1999 National Constituent Assembly as well as ambassador to Portugal under Chavez.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Quijada is a left-wing revolutionary whose candidacy is seen by some as a Chavista rebellion against the perceived distortion of the revolutionary process by those currently in power. He must, however, be considered one of the minnows in this year’s race.

An electrical engineer by profession, Quijada is mostly known for being part of the editorial team of left-wing news website Aporrea.org and a writer for the Chavista national newspaper Diario Vea.

As part of Chavez’s Fifth Republic (MVR) movement and founder of the Revolutionary Middle Classes party, Quijada eventually joined the ranks of the ruling PSUV in 2008.

He was later active in the Negra Hipolita social mission, which offers aid to the homeless, and the Barrio Adentro mission, which coordinates Cuban medical aid in Venezuela.

Following Chavez’s death, Quijada distanced himself from President Maduro and helped found the dissident ultra-left party Popular and Political Unity 89 (UPP89) in 2015, which left the broad Chavista alliance, the Great Patriotic Pole, in 2016.

Since then, he has been increasingly vocal in his criticisms of Maduro, deciding to “raise his voice” and run for president due to the “immense disorder” in the country.

He currently works as a private sector policy advisor in the foreign, agricultural, and industrial areas. He has written four theatre productions.

Which political parties are backing him?

His own UPP89 as part of its first electoral incursion into national political life. He also has the support of Socialist Tide (Marea Socialista), a Trotskyist political tendency which broke from the PSUV in 2015 but has been unable to legalize its political party status.

What are his proposed policies for Venezuela?

Quijada has criticised the current administration with force, claiming that the “economic war”, which the Maduro administration routinely cites an explanation for the country’s deep economic crisis, is a “lie”.

He couples such criticisms with frequent denunciations of both the right-wing political groupings and the governing PSUV party, presenting himself as a “third way option.”

Quijada professes to want to return to original Chavismo before President Maduro, but many of his announced policy positions closely resemble those endorsed by the presidential incumbent.

He is an anti-imperialist, supporting regional integration and opposing US-led financial blockades and military aggressions.

Quijada wants to keep existing currency controls, recuperate oil production, “stimulate the economy from the supply side,” and reduce import dependence. He promises to “rationalise” the prices on many subsidised goods, and has opposed rival presidential candidate Henri Falcon’s plan to dollarize the Venezuelan economy.

He has declared that he will seek external financing to help Venezuela out of its current crisis and will “renegotiate” the country’s external debt.

Quijada is one of the few candidates to mention crime and crime fighting in his campaigning, claiming that he wants to reinstate ethics in that area.

Quijada in a quote?

“We are indeed opposition to the PSUV, but we are not the opposition to the revolutionary process.”

Who is his typical voter?

Someone who follows Aporrea very closely. This is generally someone from the lower-middle class revolutionary ranks who tends to be somewhat intellectual.

If he succeeds in filling the left-wing, non-Maduro political space, he may also capture some of the “hard” chavista vote who can’t countenance voting for Maduro given the current state of the country, but who would never vote for a right-wing candidate.

However, recent efforts to create a left-wing alternative to the PSUV have largely yet to bear fruit given the ruling party’s formidable electoral machine, which successfully combines grassroots mobilization with targeted social programs.

What is his election slogan?

“Let’s go out and vote for the future of our country.”

What will he try to make the elections about?

Moral values, especially in countering crime and corruption, and restoring what he considers to be Chavista values to the institutions of the state.

He will also try to position himself as the Chavista of the bases, of the grassroots movements as opposed to Maduro who for some represents the state, the ruling sections of society.

What are his main challenges?

Much of Quijada’s rhetoric can be heard elsewhere on the campaign trail by other candidates, leaving him with a difficult task of marking out his own political ground. His criticisms of the current administration are being made with more zest by the right‐wing candidates, and his anti-imperialist positions are being declared with more force by Maduro.

His opponents can and are easily using labels to sideline him. The government throws him into the same camp as Falcon and Javier Bertucci since his criticisms of the PSUV resemble, at least superficially, those of the right-wing, whereas the bulk of the opposition associates him with Maduro due to his shared Chavista policies. Quijada will struggle to impress his own political identity on voters.

One of the challenges he faces will be to overcome the limited and very localised electoral horizons which the UPP89 has had so far. All other left‐wing parties are backing Maduro, leaving Quijada without allies and with a very limited campaigning base. He will struggle to get his message out to the masses.

One of the tools he does have at his disposal is the website Aporrea; however the diversity of opinion and open editorial stance of the site will limit the impact for Quijada.

Additionally, without highly visible marches and rallies, he will struggle to convince the electorate that his campaign is more than article-writing and press conferences.

Where can I read more about him?