In today’s Venezuela, to be a rightist is out of fashion. The streets of Caracas are lined with posters showing the face of the businessman and political leader Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate for the presidency. In one picture he appears with a baseball cap featuring the colours of the country’s flag and an open smile, as if to advertise some toothpaste. Above it, a legend says: “Below and left.” “Below and left” is one of the possible places in the ballot card where voters can mark their choice, but it is something else too: the political space that Capriles seeks to fill to surmount his disadvantage against Hugo Chávez. Throughout the campaign, Capriles – a rightist businessman – has presented himself as a progressive man, a politician who tries to recover Chávez’s discourse from the opposite side of the street. Recently he has sought to reinforce this image by purporting to be a defender of the working class.
Paradoxically, for the first time in a long while, the Venezuelan bourgeoisie has a candidate true to his class. He was born in the bosom of two families who own communications media. His adversaries accuse him of belonging to the ultra-rightist group Tradición, Familia y Propiedad (Tradition, Family and Property). He took an active part in the coup against Chávez in 2002.
This sort of political transvestism, with the right posing as a progressive force, is not gratuitous. As is shown in several opinion polls, Venezuela has given birth to a new political culture where the socialist ideal is widely accepted. Half the population agrees with the idea of building a socialist country, against 29% who oppose it. Citizens associate socialism with values such as democracy, equal opportunities, social inclusion, solidarity, co-operation, organisation, participation and, recently, efficiency.