Venezuela: Interim president claims opposition is sabotaging power grid ahead of election | The Washington Post

Interim President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday charged that allies of Venezuela’s opposition are sabotaging the country’s power grid ahead of this month’s presidential election. Maduro ordered the military to safeguard power stations across the country to prevent sabotage ahead of the April 14 vote pitting him against opposition leader Henrique Capriles. “I have ordered the militarization of all the country’s electricity facilities and elaboration of a special protection plan,” Maduro told supporters at a campaign rally in the city of San Carlos. Maduro said government adversaries have infiltrated Corpoelec, the state-run power company, and he announced that some of its employees would be investigated for allegedly cooperating with opposition groups bent on sabotaging the grid. “Those employees who are conspiring against the people will go to jail,” Maduro said.

Venezuela: Venezuela faces ‘undemocratic’ vote: election official | Global Post

Venezuela has a transparent voting system but the election to replace late leader Hugo Chavez will be “deeply undemocratic” because the government candidate has an unfair advantage over the opposition, a member of the electoral body said. Vicente Diaz, known as the dissenting voice on the five-member National Electoral Council (CNE), told AFP that it was impossible for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles to have as much media visibility as Chavez’s chosen successor, acting President Nicolas Maduro. “If we look at the national electoral eco-system, we stand before a deeply undemocratic election because the basic principle is that the candidates participate in equal conditions, and this is not the case,” Diaz said. Speaking on Tuesday, the day the campaign for the April 14 election formally kicked off, Diaz pulled out a local newspaper and showed a page with a Capriles campaign ad and another one for Maduro financed by the ruling PSUV socialist party. The daily, however, contained eight more pages of Maduro ads paid for by the government.

Venezuela: Ghost of Chavez dominates Venezuela election campaign | Reuters

Weeks after his death, Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chavez still leads supporters in singing the national anthem. The late president’s recorded voice booms over rallies for his protégé, acting President Nicolas Maduro, who stands under billboards of Chavez’s face and waves to crowds carrying signs emblazoned with his name. Maduro, who is favored to win a snap election triggered by Chavez’s death last month, rarely misses a chance to lionize the man many Venezuelans know as “El Comandante.” “All of the prophecies of Hugo Chavez, the prophet of Christ on this earth, have come true,” intoned Maduro at a rally celebrating the anniversary of the former president’s release from jail for leading a failed 1992 coup. “In eternity, or wherever you are, you must be proud because you left our people the greatest inheritance of all: a free and independent nation on the path toward socialism,” he said of the man loved by supporters as a savior but excoriated by adversaries as a dictator.

Venezuela: Capriles cries foul ahead of election | AFP

Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles accused acting president Nicolas Maduro of unfairly using state media and money in his campaign to succeed the late Hugo Chavez. The accusations come two weeks before voters choose a new president following the death of Chavez, the flamboyant leader who governed oil-rich Venezuela for 14 years and launched a self-styled leftist “revolution.” “The state media have become a propaganda wing of a political party,” Capriles alleged, referring to the socialist party of Maduro, Chavez’s handpicked successor. In free and fair balloting, candidates are supposed to have the same access and the same rights, Capriles told a press conference. But Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, is relying on “all of the state’s resources … and all of the state’s power structure” to run his campaign, Capriles charged.

Venezuela: Election is a High Stakes Affair for Local Vigilante Groups | ABC News

In the Caracas barrio of 23 de Enero, a coalition of armed vigilante groups serves as the de facto security force. It also helps run social welfare programs for a neighborhood overrun by drug dealing. The vigilante groups, known as colectivos, have a great deal at stake in the upcoming presidential election, which will pit opposition candidate Henrique Capriles against Hugo Chávez’s handpicked successor, acting President Nicolas Maduro. “If [Capriles] wins, he will go after all of the colectivos and cut the social programs. That would be terrible,” said William Ortega, a member of the colectivo Monteraz. “We will not let the police come into 23 de Enero and we will risk our lives to defend this area.” There are more than 20 autonomous colectivos in Caracas, and they’re mostly centered in 23 de Enero, a community of makeshift shacks and public housing projects that is home to about 100,000 people. Their arsenal of weapons includes AK-47s, handguns and homemade grenades.

Venezuela: Country readies for key post-Chavez election | BBC

As Venezuela prepares for 14 April elections – the first presidential poll without Hugo Chavez’s name on the ballot in almost two decades – the choice for voters appears as stark and as divisive as ever, the BBC’s Will Grant in Caracas reports. While he was alive, very few committed supporters of late President Hugo Chavez would ever openly criticise him. They had no time for opposition arguments about the government’s control of the media and the judiciary, and rejected the idea that Venezuela was living under a dictatorship. Rather, when there were complaints they tended to be over more immediate quality-of-life issues: infrequent rubbish collections or a lack of local sporting facilities. In pro-Chavez neighbourhoods – like 23 de Enero in the capital, Caracas – such problems were easily solved with oil money.

Venezuela: Police fire tear gas during clash ahead of vote | Reuters

Police fired tear gas in downtown Caracas on Thursday as anti-government student protesters clashed with supporters of late President Hugo Chavez in an increasingly volatile atmosphere ahead of next month’s election. Several hundred students were marching to the election board’s headquarters to demand a clean vote when they were blocked by government supporters who hurled stones, bottles and eggs at them, a Reuters witness said. Some of the students threw stones back, other witnesses said. “We were holding a peaceful march. … All we want is democracy,” said law student Eduardo Vargas, 19, whose eye was injured in the incident. “We’re all Venezuelans. We just want a fair vote.”

Venezuela: Government Cracks Down on Opposition Tweets as Election Heats Up | Bloomberg

Venezuela’s government is monitoring social networking websites for messages from the opposition that might destabilize the country in the run-up to next month’s election pitting Hugo Chavez’s handpicked successor against the socialist leader’s former rival. Authorities today arrested a computer technician for allegedly sending “inappropriate” and “destabilizing” messages from a hacked account, Interior and Justice Minister Nestor Reverol said on state-owned television. He didn’t provide details of the messages. “We are going to be very watchful,” Reverol said. “We won’t permit one millimeter of destabilization.”

Venezuela: Date Set To Elect Chavez’s Successor | NPR

Venezuela’s elections commission announced Saturday that voters will go to the polls on April 14 to choose a successor to President Hugo Chavez, who died this week after a battle with cancer. The nation’s constitution mandated that an election be called within 30 days of Chavez’s death on March 5, but the scheduled date falls outside of that window. Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s vice president, was sworn in as interim leader on Friday. Opposition coalition leader and state governor Henrique Capriles, who ran against Chavez in the October election, has disputed Maduro’s right to be interim leader. Capriles is expected to be the opposition candidate against Maduro in the special election, though many in his party are concerned about the vote’s fairness.

Venezuela: Venezuelan Re-Elects President Hugo Chavez for 6 More Years | Latin American Herald Tribune

Venezuelans went to the polls both in the country and abroad on Sunday in reportedly massive numbers to decide who will govern Venezuela for the next six years on a sunny day marked by both calm and expectation, given that President Hugo Chavez, a leftist firebrand who has been in office for 14 years, was facing a stiff challenge from Henrique Capriles. The polls were open from 6 a.m. (1030 GMT) to 6 p.m. (2230 GMT), although the National Elections Council (CNE) said that Venezuelans in line at that later hour who had not yet cast their ballots would be allowed to do so. Some 19 million people are eligible to vote in the election.

Venezuela: Elections: The Stakes Are High | Fox News

Venezuelans are heading to the polls in what is considered one of Latin America’s most important elections in years. After 14 years in power, the polarizing and controversial socialist President Hugo Chávez faces his toughest challenger yet — the center-right candidate Henrique Capriles. When Chávez came to power in 1999 he was the first a wave of left-wing Latin America leaders known as the “Pink Tide” to gain high political office in the region.

Venezuela: Why the voting is more trustworthy than the polling |

Polling – or perhaps more importantly, the abuse of polling data – has a checkered history in Venezuela. I will never forget the day of the presidential recall referendum in 2004. I was sitting in the BBC studio in Washington, between a TV and radio interview, and the fax machine spat out a release from what was then one of the most influential Democratic polling and consulting firms in the United States: Penn, Schoen, Berland and Associates. “Exit Poll Results Show Major Defeat for Chavez” was the headline. The agency claimed to have interviewed an enormous sample (more than 20,000 voters at 267 voting centers), and found that Chávez had been voted out of office by a margin of 59% to 41%. I looked up at the producer who gave me the fax with more than a bit of perplexity. With good reason: the actual result of the referendum was the opposite: 58% to 41% against the recall. The Organization of American States and the Carter Center observed the election and made it clear that there was no doubt that the results were clean. Given the actual vote, the probability of the variation in PSB’s result was less than 1 chance in 10 to the 490th power, if you can imagine something that unlikely. The producer put the press release aside. “I’m not doing anything with this unless there’s another source,” she said.

Venezuela: High-Stakes Election in Venezuela | Council on Foreign Relations

The October 7 presidential election in Venezuela, which pits longtime president Hugo Chávez against former governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, presents Chávez’s most formidable electoral challenge to date. Although the three-term president retains popular support, Capriles has led a strong opposition campaign that has gained considerable momentum in the weeks leading up to the election. A defeat for the president could signal a significant shift in the country’s “socialist revolution,” its economy, and foreign relations. In the event of a reelection for Chávez, concerns linger over the conditions of his health and the trajectory of Venezuela’s future should he die in office. The October 7 vote has significant implications for the direction of Venezuela’s “socialist revolution,” as well as the country’s democratic landscape. Michael Penfold writes in a January 2012 Foreign Affairs article that “a Chávez defeat would signal the end of a leftist revolution that has radically transformed Venezuela and, some argue, Latin America in the twenty-first century,” while a Chávez victory would “inflict a fatal blow to a renewed opposition that has struggled, and now seems to be succeeding, to gain some traction in a socially polarized country.”

Venezuela: National Electoral Council Says Voting System is “Armoured” for Presidential Vote |

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) undertook its final test of voting machines yesterday as part of preparations in the lead up to the presidential vote on Sunday, when incumbent President Hugo Chavez will stand against right-wing opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski. 600 voters representing each of Venezuela’s 24 regional states were brought to a large CNE warehouse in the central Miranda state for the test yesterday. While the participants voted on the 200 randomly selected machines, CNE technicians, representatives of the presidential candidates, and the electoral accompaniment mission from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) were able to assess the functioning of the voting system. The audit was also used to test the functioning of the electronic transmission of voting information to the CNE’s central totaling system.

Venezuela: Venezuela’s presidential election: The autocrat and the ballot box | The Economist

On September 12th a queue of stationary vehicles kilometres long blocked the coastal highway that leads out of Puerto Cabello. “Politics,” said a resident, wearily, by way of explanation. The politics in question were taking place beside the entrance to the port city’s weed-infested airstrip. A small group of supporters was waiting to escort Henrique Capriles Radonski, the opposition candidate in Venezuela’s presidential election, to a rally in town. A couple of hundred red-shirted supporters of President Hugo Chávez were throwing stones at them from across the highway as a sound system blasted out campaign songs. A pickup truck had been set on fire. “The opposition has no right to come here and deceive working people,” said Luis Rojas, one of the stone-throwers and also an employee of the city’s chavista mayor. Mr Chávez, a former lieutenant-colonel who preaches radical socialism and rails against American imperialism, is seeking to be elected president for the fourth time on October 7th. But after nearly 14 years in power, he faces an unprecedented electoral challenge to his autocratic regime. A previously weak and divided opposition, prone to political miscalculation, has set aside its differences to form a seemingly solid coalition of parties from the left and right, under the banner of the Democratic Unity coalition (MUD).

Venezuela: Chavez’s rival gains ground in Venezuela election push | Reuters

The crowds are bigger, his speeches slicker, and Venezuela’s young opposition leader Henrique Capriles is on a roll in a final, frenzied push to end President Hugo Chavez’s socialist rule. With just 12 days left before the OPEC nation’s presidential election, the 40-year-old state governor is whipping up crowds like never before, creeping up in the polls and becoming increasingly aggressive in his attacks on Chavez’s policies. “We’ve never had a candidate like him,” gushed shopkeeper Andrea Gomez, 42, screaming at Capriles like a teenage girl at a pop concert as he went by, blowing kisses during an open-top cavalcade along the Caribbean coast north of Caracas. “It’s like Chavez in 1998, when he won the presidency. But Henrique has surpassed that. He is closer to the people.”

Venezuela: The Venezuelan Election Deserves Our Attention | Forbes

There is a crucial election about to take place in Venezuela. Basic issues of freedom and economic liberty are at stake for the Venezuelan people. And with Venezuela being both our largest oil provider and a chief anti-American aggressor with alliances in Iran, Syria and Russia amongst others, this election is not only critical for us but much more so than policymakers in DC have acknowledged or realized. Democratic challenger Henrique Capriles could surely change the direction of the Venezuela. He is poised to serve as a much-needed positive force in shaping Venezuela’s future as a cooperative member of the international community if he is elected on October 7th. The head of Venezuela’s oil workers union, the United Federation of Oil Workers, said just yesterday that his members are not even entertaining the idea of a Chavez defeat. “It is impossible for Capriles to win this year…We the working class will not allow it.”

Venezuela: Hugo Chavez Opposition Concerned About Forces Present on Election Day | Fox News

The campaign of Venezuelan presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said they are concerned about the presence of pro-Chavez groups like Colombian guerrillas who are known to operate at numerous polling sites and can intimidate voters. Campaign manager Leopoldo Lopez said they identified a total of 77 voting centers where they believe armed forces, Colombian guerrillas or paramilitary groups are present in the area. That’s out of a total of more than 13,800 voting centers nationwide. Lopez told reporters the opposition turned over the list to electoral officials and asked to meet with them as well as military officers who are in charge of security for the Oct. 7 presidential election.

Venezuela: Venezuela’s foreign policy decisive in presidential election | El Universal

Foreign diplomatic missions appointed to Venezuela are closely keeping track of the Venezuelan political process as the effects of the results of the upcoming Venezuelan presidential election will extend beyond the country’s borders. After 14 years in office and hoping to extend such period to 20 years, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez represents the continuity of his foreign policy, which aims at privileging those countries with common ideological interests or opposing US interests.

Venezuela: High stakes in Venezuelan election | The Guardian

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.

Venezuela: Chavez has apparent money edge | KWES

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles typically runs his presidential campaign by jogging through Venezuela’s small towns, reaching out to supporters with both hands and climbing aboard the back of a flatbed truck to speak to hundreds of people. By contrast, President Hugo Chavez brings large sound trucks, a production team and a fleet of buses that carry supporters and government employees to plazas to cheer him on by the thousands. A little more than a month ahead of Venezuela’s Oct. 7 election, Chavez enjoys clear advantages over his challenger in campaign funding and media access. While neither campaign has revealed how much it’s spending, Capriles says he is in a “David vs. Goliath” contest, facing a well-financed incumbent backed by an even richer government. “We’re fighting against two checkbooks. There’s no way to compete economically speaking,” said Rafael Guzman, who is in charge of finances for the opposition coalition. He accused the government of using money from the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, and a separate development fund, Fonden, to support Chavez’s campaign and bankroll projects aimed at boosting his support.

Venezuela: Chavez and Capriles set for election battle | BBC

Now it is official. Hugo Chavez and Henrique Capriles will contest Venezuela’s presidential election in October. In fact, the formal registration of the two candidates – Mr Capriles on Sunday and Mr Chavez by Monday’s deadline – merely confirms what had long been expected. But the registration removes any lingering, albeit tiny, doubt over whether President Chavez, beset by health problems, would be on the ballot. Although campaigning does not officially begin until 1 July, there have already been plenty of election-related events.