Punto Fijo, March 31st, 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – After opposition candidate Henrique Capriles announced last week that he would launch his electoral campaign in the same city as PSUV candidate Nicolas Maduro, government officials accused his campaign of attempting to create violence.
Maduro announced last week his intention of beginning his campaign in Chavez’s home state of Barinas when the campaign officially begins this Tuesday.
“We are going to start early on April 2nd…we will be in Barinas, the homeland of el comandante,” said Maduro last Tuesday.
However, on Friday opposition candidate Henrique Capriles announced he would also begin his campaign in Barinas on Tuesday, an announcement that government officials immediately criticized.
“Three days ago Nicolás Maduro announced he would start his campaign in Barinas. Now the copycat candidate announced he will do the same,” said Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas via Twitter.
“It is clear that the ‘Hate Campaign’ is choosing the path of provocation,” he wrote.
The southwestern state of Barinas was the only major site of violence in the 2012 presidential campaign, as a confrontation between opposing sides ended in the shooting death of three opposition campaign officials at the hands of one PSUV member last September. One activist reported to Venezuelanalysis.com at the time that the opposition members had tried to enter a Chavista neighborhood, but were denied entry, and the shootings happened after the opposition supporters became aggressive.
Yesterday, Maduro responded to Capriles’ announcement by assuring that his plan is to provoke conflict.
“The right-wing has decided to do an electoral campaign of violence. I have proof of their plans, and they will do the first act of violence here in Barinas on Tuesday,” said Maduro from Barinas on Saturday.
“That’s why [Capriles] decided to come here, to provoke the people of Barinas, and to start the electoral campaign by sending a message of violence,” he said.
Chavez’s home state was a stronghold for the Chavez government in the 2012 elections, where Chavez beat Capriles by 19 percentage points in October, and Chavez’s brother Adan Chavez won the governorship there in December by 16 points over the opposition candidate.
This has caused government officials to question Capriles’ decision to launch his campaign there on the same day as Maduro.
“What is he coming here for? Was he born here in Barinas? Do the people support him? This is all just a provocation,” said Maduro.
However, Maduro called on the people of Barinas to remain calm, and assured that they would not allow violence to occur.
“I guarantee a peaceful campaign, and ask for support from the people and political organizations. No one is authorized to confront the rallies being organized by the ‘parties of hate’,” he said.
But the campaign has already taken on a high level of intensity as both candidates sling insults and personal attacks at the opposing side.
On Saturday, Capriles called Maduro a “bird brain” (toripollo), and assured he was a poor public speaker who was lying to the people.
Meanwhile, Maduro referred to opposition groups as being “descendants of Hitler” for their threats against pro-Chavez actors and celebrities in Venezuela, and referred to Capriles as “bourgeois” (burguesito).
Polls continue to show Maduro as the favorite, as results from the private pollster Hinterlaces released on Sunday showed Maduro winning by 20 points over Capriles, obtaining 55 percent to Capriles’ 35 percent.
Other pollsters such as IVAD have shown similar results, however both IVAD and Hinterlaces overestimated Chavez’s lead over Capriles in last October’s elections, predicting 18 and 16-point advantages for Chavez respectively, whereas the spread was actually 11 points.
Opposition analysts point to the fact that pro-Chavez forces historically have had a lower electoral turnout when Chavez is not on the ballot, and claim this could prove to be an advantage for Capriles. However presidential elections in Venezuela usually have a much higher turnout than regional or parliamentary elections.
The Miami-based Spanish newspaper, El Nuevo Herald, claimed Maduro’s popularity is falling and his lead has been cut to 7 points, but did not name their source.