Red Tide Sweeps Caracas as Venezuelan Presidential Campaign Ends (+images)

Venezuela’s presidential election campaign reached an emotional close yesterday as both candidates made last bid attempts to win over votes.

By Ewan Robertson
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Mérida, April 12th 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s presidential election campaign reached an emotional close yesterday as both candidates made last bid attempts to win over votes.

In the snap election called following Hugo Chavez’s death, on Sunday Venezuelans will choose between the candidate of the Bolivarian revolution, Nicolas Maduro and the candidate of the conservative opposition, Henrique Capriles.

To mark the final day of campaigning, the pro-Chavez movement held a gigantic march in Caracas which turned the seven main avenues of the capital red.

The mass rally repeated the feat achieved by Chavez before his presidential victory last October, with crowd numbers estimated between “hundreds of thousands” and “three million” according to different media sources.

Meanwhile, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles filled twelve blocks of the main avenue in the city of Barquisimeto, in the opposition-controlled state of Lara.

In Caracas, Nicolas Maduro made an emotive speech where he paid tribute to Hugo Chavez’s historical role as leader of the Bolivarian revolution.

He told supporters that “imperialism and the decadent and parasitic bourgeoisie” thought that “the revolution was over” following Chavez’s death on 5 March.

Contesting that claim, Maduro drew a great roar from the crowd, shouting, “What’s coming now is that there will be Chavez for a good while yet in the future of this free and independent nation”.

The former bus driver and current interim president vowed to continue Chavez’s legacy. “I’ll be the president of the poor, the humble, of those in need, of the children,” he declared, while expressing his spiritual hope that after this undertaking, “one day I will meet with Hugo Chavez again”.

Maduro urged supporters to vote early on Sunday, calling for ten million votes and a fifteen percentage point victory over his right-wing rival. In last October’s presidential election, Chavez won 8.2 million votes, beating Capriles by 11%. 

Maduro further warned the crowd that the opposition were considering not recognising the election result following their likely defeat on Sunday, and reminded people of the state coup launched by the opposition against the Chavez government exactly eleven years earlier.

“If they try a state coup, we’ll make an even deeper revolution than this one. If they try to defeat us with votes, with votes we’ll beat them too,” he said, while asking the Venezuelan people to maintain “serenity, peace, and trust,” and to “be alert” in the run up to voting day.

Vision of government

Accompanied by government ministers, celebrities such as Diego Maradona, and members of Hugo Chavez’s family, Nicolas Maduro laid out his vision of governance for the coming period.

He reminded supporters that his government plan was to “fulfil the entirety of the [Socialist] Plan of the Nation, handwritten by Hugo Chavez”.

Within this, he said that his government would have certain “focus points”, such as reducing crime and insecurity, improving governmental efficiency, combating corruption in state institutions, extending social programs, and strengthening mechanisms of participatory democracy.

Restructuring the electrical sector to eliminate internal sabotage, maintaining economic growth, and playing a strong role in the Mercosur trade bloc were other points highlighted in his speech.

On social policy, Maduro stated his commitment to create a “Hugo Chavez” Socialist Mission System to increase the scope and efficiency of government social programs. The presidential hopeful also committed to “strengthening” free public health and education to university level.

With supporters shouting slogans, waving banners of Maduro and Chavez, and with some in tears, a visibly emotional Maduro finished his speech shouting, “Long live Chavez! Long life the people! Long live the Bolivarian Revolution!”

Capriles ends campaign

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles declared at his final campaign event that on Sunday Venezuelans face a choice between two projects: “One that abuses, intimidates, and threatens; and a project that we lead and gathers together all Venezuelans to move this country forward with hope, faith, strength and bravery”.

The Miranda state governor also predicted imminent victory, saying, “On Monday there will be a new Venezuela”.

“On 19 April [Nicolas Maduro] will have to hand me the [presidential] tri-colour sash, because a new government is beginning in Venezuela,” he continued while supporters cheered.

Polls in the weeks running up to the election have all pointed to a Maduro victory, although the predicted margin has varied from between just below 10% to around 20%.

However, after weeks of an opposition campaign criticising the election as “biased” and “unfair” towards the government, Capriles told supporters to maintain a presence at voting audits after polling stations close.

Referring to the Venezuelan government, he said, “The corrupt ones like to cheat and we’re not going to let them rob us of hope and the future”.

Capriles also repeated election pledges to raise wages the day he is elected and to generate three million jobs during his prospective term in office.

Other proposals publicly offered by the opposition candidate are to “improve” government social programs, increase the private sector’s role in the economy and to end solidarity-based oil deals with leftist Latin American neighbours.

In an energetic final statement, Capriles declared, “As the next president of all Venezuelans, I declare a united Venezuela. On to victory, to triumph, let’s vote on Sunday for life and the future”.

Official campaigning in now over and a ban on alcohol sales and the carrying of arms is in place until after the election. The Venezuelan Electoral Council (CNE) reports that all voting machines are installed and ready for voting day.

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