Tuesday, January 18

Venezuela: new vote in the homeland of Chavez with a power decided to win

Supervised by important security forces, the inhabitants of Barinas, native state of ex-President Hugo Chavez in western Venezuela, voted on Sunday to elect their governor, after a first ballot canceled by justice in November while the opposition candidate was in the lead.

In the meantime, opposition candidate Freddy Superlano has been declared ineligible, as has his wife, who was to replace him. It is finally Sergio Garrido, little known, who wears the colors of the opposition against Jorge Arreaza, former vice-president and former foreign minister, but above all former son-in-law of Chavez.

“This land welcomed me like a son and I feel like a son of Barinas,” Arreaza said after voting. Originally from Caracas, he was parachuted into the state after the election was canceled and the outgoing governor Argenis Chavez, brother of Hugo Chavez, resigned. “Today, we do not have the right to fall asleep,” he added, calling on activists to vote.

Sergio Garrido’s supporters chanted “Yes, we can do it!” during the vote of their candidate.

“We will have the same result as on November 21 (victory) but with more brilliance”, assured Garrido to the press. During the campaign, he criticized the “use and diversion” of state resources to favor the candidate for power.

On Sunday, the candidate also denounced the “unjustified” arrest of two activists in Barrancas. AFP could not confirm these arrests.

The police were omnipresent on the ground with some 25,000 security agents, including 15,000 soldiers, deployed in the state.

“The opposition won and they did not like it, because they want to continue with their hegemony and their dynasty,” Nelson Leon, music teacher, 68, told AFP after voting near Plaza Bolivar , in the center of Barinas, the state capital.

“I have always voted and I come to exercise my vote normally so that we keep the governorship,” said Fajardo Romero, 56, firefighter and pro-power militiaman, in Ciudad Tavacare, a large social housing complex where portraits of Chavez, President of Venezuela from 1999 until his death in 2013, adorn the walls.

For power, retaining the “Commander” ‘s home region goes beyond the symbol.

Barinas is a key region for the president of Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s successor, with its agricultural plains, its oil reserves and its location near the Colombian border where guerrillas and drug traffickers are rife.

In the November 21 elections, the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), Maduro’s party founded by Chavez, and its allies won 19 of the country’s 23 regional governorates, plus the town hall of Caracas. But they almost lost the Barinas, ruled since 1998 by a member of the Chavez family.

– “Hope is back” –

The dynasty began with the president’s father, Hugo de los Reyes Chavez (1998-2008) and continued with his brothers Adan (2008-2016) and Argenis (2017-2021).

While the results were published for the other states, those of Barinas were delayed for days and then finally suspended, while, after the counting of 90% of the ballots, Freddy Superlano led with 37.60% of the vote, against 37 , 21% for Argenis Chavez.

The opposition denounced a “hack”.

For this new ballot, 607,000 of the 870,000 inhabitants of this state are called to the polls until 6:00 p.m. (22:00 GMT). With expected results overnight.

“We will win with the immortal spirit of Commander Chavez!” President Maduro wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

The Venezuelan power mobilized its electoral machine. “Hope is back” is Arreaza’s slogan. A carefully chosen formula that alludes to Chavez but also a need for change as Venezuela is entangled in an economic crisis that has caused the per capita GDP of this oil-producing country to drop to the level of Haiti.

The director of the Delphos Institute, Felix Seijas, believes that “the government is doing all it can to win the Barinas” at a time when the opposition could try to organize a referendum to remove Nicolas Maduro.

“They cannot allow the opposition to win because that would fuel the discourse that Chavismo is not all-powerful,” he said.


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