Accusations of Campaign Violations Mount in Venezuela’s Race for President

Accusations between the Chavez campaign and the Manuel Rosales campaign have been flying this past week, that the other side is violating campaign regulations. Communications Minister Willian Lara spoke of a propaganda campaign to pressure the electoral council to rule against the President's campaign.

Caracas, Venezuela, September 5, 2006—Accusations between the Chavez campaign and the Manuel Rosales campaign have been flying this past week, that the other side is violating campaign regulations. The main charges from Rosales supporters is that Chavez is using state funds for his campaign and receiving too much coverage from state TV, while Chavez supporters say Rosales is using subliminal advertising and that the private media are not giving fair coverage to the president.

According to representatives from the Chavez campaign team, known as “Commando Miranda,” an official state government TV ad for the achievements of Zulia governor Manuel Rosales included a subliminal message in favor of Rosales’ presidential campaign. Alvin Lezama, the director of Venezuela’s telecommunications commission, CONATEL, visited the news channel Globovisión yesterday, to investigate the accusation.

Presidential candidate Manuel Rosales responded to the accusation, saying that it was nothing more than “a smokescreen” to distract from the large sums of state money Chavez is spending on his electoral campaign. Rosales specifically referred to last Friday’s pro-Chavez rally, which he said must have cost a fortune to organize.

Gerardo Blyde, who is one of Rosales’s campaign managers, said the state television’s coverage of the president’s rally and of Rosales’s campaign activities that day were completely unbalanced. According to Bylde, state TV covered “Chavez for 165 minutes and Rosales for 11 minutes.”

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s Minister of Information and Communication, Willian Lara, and the Commando Miranda accused the private mass media of launching a propaganda campaign against the President. Lara said that the propaganda campaign is aimed at pressuring the National Electoral Council (CNE), which oversees the campaign rules, to censure the President for his frequent television appearances.

According to Lara, the state media have been scrupulous in balancing President Chavez’s campaign activities with those of opposition candidates. However, “if an [official] event of the head of state coincides with that of a candidate for the presidency, professional criteria indicate that greater prominence should be given to the event of the President.”

Hiroshima Bravo, of the Commando Maisanta, argued that the CNE rules specify that each candidate should have at least two minutes of TV coverage per day. However, in the private broadcast media representatives from the Chavez campaign are not given any opportunity to present themselves. “It’s 24 hours per day against our candidate,” said Bravo. “The majority of journalists in these media appear to be spokespersons for the opposition,” she added.

Another campaign related dispute erupted when officials of the pro-Chavez coalition party PPT (Fatherland for all) complained to the CNE that Manuel Rosales’s new political party, A New Time, is using the same color blue as its official party color as the PPT has been using since its founding in 1997.

The CNE announced that it would examine all of these allegations and would try to issue a ruling as soon as possible.

As of last week, according to the daily El Universal, 87 complaints of campaign rules violations have been filed with the CNE. Of these, 38 were filed by the CNE’s own officials, 11 by citizens, two by the president of the CNE commission in charge of overseeing adherence to the rules, and 32 were received via the CNE website.

80% of the complaints deal with violations supposedly committed by the Chavez campaign, 19% by the Rosales campaign, and 1% by the Rausseo campaign. Benjamin Rausseo is an independent candidate.