Mérida, August 11, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- Over the weekend and today, almost all of the candidates of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) registered for the upcoming November 23 state and regional elections in the National Electoral Council (CNE) office, many accompanied by large marches of their supporters.
Although the PSUV’s electoral campaign hasn’t officially started, the marches functioned as a show of strength and unity of Chavez supporters. Meanwhile, the opposition around the country was divided, finding it hard to agree on one joint candidate in many states.
In their speeches PSUV candidates stressed unity and the need for community participation in local government policy.
In Carabobo, PSUV candidates Mario Silva and Edgardo Parra formalized their candidacies. Thousands of supporters mobilized in Valencia (the capital of the state of Carabobo) and then marched to the CNE. The Communist Party and the Tupamaros also joined the march and supported Silva.
Silva, who is a well-known talk show host on the state TV channel VTV, noted that Valencia hadn’t seen such a mobilization for a long time and added, “This large march filled the streets with revolutionary fervor and the oligarchy is scared of this.”
Referring to the treatment his campaign had received by the private media, he said, “We’re going to see what they’ll publish. This mobilization is difficult to hide from the right wing media. Anyway, we’ve recorded some aerial shots so that the truth is clear and not what they want to show.”
Silva estimated the size of the march at 15,000.
Jesse Chacon, who has held several ministerial posts in the Chavez cabinet, registered his candidacy for mayor of Sucre, the eastern most municipality of the capital Caracas. In his speech to the march, he argued that the first steps of the campaign are in the street, constructing a program in the communal councils with clear solutions to the problems of water, transport, health, education, rubbish and citizen security.
“To govern Sucre, we don’t need to wait until November, we’re going to start from now…only unity will maintain the validity of this revolutionary process,” he said.
In the state of Merida, where the voting is likely to be very close, 15,000 supporters marched for four hours from upper Merida to the CNE office. There were also contingents from many of the missions and many PSUV branches from different suburbs had their own contingents. There was also a small contingent of the allied party PPT (Homeland for All).
Following some demoralization after last year’s November constitutional reform referendum loss, and then disagreement over the city mayoral candidate, the march, in which organizers were expecting closer to 5,000 participants, was a boost to morale.
The marches in Caracas also exceeded expectations. On Sunday, accompanied by a large contingent, former vice-president Jorge Rodriguez and former education minister Aristobulo Isturiz registered as candidates for the capital’s largest municipality, Libertador, and as mayor of greater Caracas, respectively.
Isturiz said to the crowd that his plan for government will be elaborated from a community analyses done in each of the municipalities of Caracas, where the suggestions of the citizens will be collected.
In the state of Anzoategui on Saturday, 10,000 supporters accompanied the current governor, Tarek William Saab, who is running for reelection, and the 21 mayoral candidates.
“We arrived in the government on November 5, 2004….[now] with more strength, with more people, with more commitment, with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, with the candidates that will be the future 21 mayors of Anzoategui…the elections of 23 November will be the step that will indicate a change of epoch,” Saab said.
“Today has been a demonstration of what will occur on the 23 of November, even though we don’t want to be triumphalists, because we’ll continue working very hard…we’ll visit house by house and organize the electoral units, which are what will give us victory,” he concluded.
In Guarico state the candidate for governor for the MEP (Electoral Movement of the People) Eustoquio Contreras, announced on Sunday his resignation as candidate in favor of the PSUV candidate, former communications minister Willian Lara. Contreras assured that the decision was in the spirit of revolutionary unity. Whilst Lara has the support of the PSUV, UPV (Venezuelan Popular Unity), PCV (Venezuelan Communist Party) and the MEP, the PPT will maintain its support for Lenny Manuitt, the daughter of the former governor.
Marches showed the continuing support for Chavez, and also served as a preliminary comparison of strength, as the opposition in many cities had called marches for their own candidates on the same weekend.
On the whole, opposition marches were small and therefore received scant coverage in the private media.
With just a few days left before the process of registration in the CNE finishes, in many cases the opposition has yet to reach agreement.
In the wealthy Caracas municipality of Chacao, the opposition continues fighting, with ex-opposition candidate, Carlos Vecchio showing his annoyance that the other opposition candidates had not complied with the norms that were agreed on the January 23rd in the ”pact of unity.” Vecchio, who renounced his candidacy on Sunday, indicated that if by this Tuesday there was no united candidate as was promised, he would not support any of the others.
On Saturday in Chacao, members of the opposition marched to the CNE to protest the disqualifications issued by the Comptroller General. Interviews with the state TV channel VTV showed that few of the marchers were capable of explaining why they reject the disqualifying laws. They also did not deliver the document that they were intending to take the CNE.
Opposition candidate Leopoldo Lopez gave a quick speech to a diminished crowed. He assured that his candidacy would continue, despite being disqualified for having committed an act of corruption. Lopez is currently mayor of Chacao.
Also in the opposition march was Ricardo Sanchez, seen as a representative of the young opposition, who tried to urge the breaching of the police barrier around the CNE, but which had little resonance amongst those present.
Estimates of this protest range between less than 1000 and 2000, despite wide media publicity in its lead up.
In Merida the opposition only reached unity at the last minute, with two candidates pulling out a few days before William Davila registered as candidate. Davila is a member of AD (Democratic Action) but has the support of Bandera Roja (Red Flag), Alianza Bravo Pueblo (Brave People’s Alliance), Electores Libres (Free Voters), Mi Unidad (My Unity), Fuerza Laboral (Labor Force), Movimiento Republicano (Republican Movement) and URD (Democratic Republican Union). However, it is possible that the Copei contender, Lester Rodriguez will also register today.
On November 23 more than 600 positions of governors, mayors, and regional legislators will be voted on. Registration is open until Tuesday.
Below: March in support of Marcos Diaz, PSUV candidate for governor of the state of Merida (Tamara Pearson)