United Socialist Party of Venezuela Gets Ready to Choose Candidates for Regional Elections

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is set to organize a 300,000 strong network of “permanent mobilization” to carry out political activity “including the defense of Venezuelan sovereignty,” according to Darío Vivas, head of the PSUV’s Events and Mobilization Commission.
Dario Vivas, Chair of the PSUV's Events and Mobilization Commission (Aporrea)

Caracas, May 23, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is set to organize a 300,000 strong network of “permanent mobilization” to carry out political activity “including the defense of Venezuelan sovereignty,” according to Darío Vivas, head of the PSUV’s Events and Mobilization Commission, which will be responsible for coordinating the network.

“We will be ready to mobilize in the face of any circumstance,” Vivas declared Thursday in a statement to the press. The first mission of the network will be to campaign for the regional elections set for November 23. But the group will also serve as a “rapid response” network in the face of importance incidents such as possible secession movements in Zulia, Vivas said.

Following the internal elections of candidates on June 1, the party will carry out “mobilization drills” throughout the whole country, with a focus on the states and municipalities in the border region he said.

On Tuesday, PSUV members in Caracas warned that it would be a big challenge to combat abstention both within the PSUV internal elections and in the upcoming regional elections.

For many poor Venezuelans the decision of whether to participate in elections or not often comes down to whether they have access to transport to and from the polling booths.

However, Vivas assured, “on the day of the internal elections, a plan of organized mobilization” would be implemented to facilitate transport of PSUV members to vote. The transport would be “egalitarian” so as not to favor any one pre-candidate in particular he stressed, although in contrast he said he did not see any problem if pre-candidates themselves wanted to organize transportation for people.

Vivas also ruled out the use of fingerprint machines, which are commonly used in Venezuelan elections to prevent multiple voting, for the party’s internal elections.

“There’s no reason to use them, we are among revolutionaries that trust each other…the pre-candidates have sworn to respect the established rules,” he argued.

The PSUV national executive has also withdrawn a ban on campaigning in the media during the party’s internal elections. Although political advertising remains prohibited, pre-candidates are allowed to participate in talk shows and publish opinion pieces. Candidates are also prohibited from using the image of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in their campaigns and from attacking each other publicly throughout the campaign.

However, controversy erupted on Wednesday evening when state owned television station’s current affairs program, Contra Golpe, hosted by journalist Vanessa Davies, was set to interview the six pre-candidates for governor of Lara: Henri Falcón, Julio Chávez, Linda Amaro, Pedro Alastre, Luis Contreras and Iván Lugo.

As the pre-candidates began to arrive, reports surfaced that Henri Falcón would not attend and that Julio Chávez, (the immensely popular mayor of Pedro Leon Torres Municipality in the state of Lara, who has headed a process democratize the entire governance system of his municipality), was being pressured to stand down by some members of the PSUV national leadership in favor of Falcón.

As Mayor Chávez arrived, he was met with cheers and applause and chants of, “If the people don’t stand firm, the Right will screw it up.”

Chaos ensued and Alastre, Contreras, and Lugo, the regional electoral coordinator of the PSUV, left without explanation forcing the program to be suspended.

The list of PSUV pre-candidates released to the media today showed that Julio Chávez had been removed.

Conflict also arose in the state of Bolivar where José Gregorio Beria, a PSUV member and pre-candidate for Mayor of Caroní, argued that the regional authorities of the organization were favoring some pre-candidates over others. An example of this he said was that the majority of the pre-candidates were not invited to a presentation of the pre-candidates organized by the regional vice-president Yelitze Santaella.

The event was converted into political proselytising for the current governor of the state, Francisco Rangel Gómez, a situation which is prohibited in the regulations, Beria said.

“There exists an evident advantage on the part of some candidates and the worst is that this attitude appears to count with the support of the regional authorities,” he asserted.

Beria also denounced that the method of candidate selection chosen by the party whereby if no single candidate achieves 50% plus 1 or 15% higher than the next candidate, the national executive in consultation with President Chavez, can select the candidate from the top three.

This does not guarantee the will of the grassroots as, ultimately, candidates can be designated by the national authorities he said.

Beria argued that Rangel Gómez, who is running again for governor, and Clemente Scotto, as pre-candidate for Mayor of Caroní, should withdraw their candidacies since they are rejected by the majority of people who don’t approve of their management.

Rangel Gómez became widely discredited earlier this year when he ordered the National Guard to break up a protest of striking workers from the SIDOR steel plant, which was subsequently nationalized by President Chavez.

“We have to be clear that if Rangel Gómez and Scotto are designated as PSUV candidates, we will lose the regional elections, because the people simply will not vote for them,” Beria continued, calling on the regional authorities of the party to avoid an “electoral debacle.”