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Chavez campaigns ahead of local vote

Text by François-Xavier FRELAND

Latest update : 2008-11-23

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez travelled across the country to campaign for his party's candidates in Sunday's local elections, which will also test Chavez's popularity after last year's failed referendum.

The long highway leading to Barinas, in the midst of the  vast green plains of  the Llanos region, is full of posters and billboards showing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez embracing his brother Adan, with both men wearing red shirts. We’re in Chavez's family's constituency, a region of cattle-rearing and rich landowners.

 Photo: François-Xavier Freland.

People say that it is on this very route, 20 or 30 years ago, that the current leader of the Bolivarian movement pledged to take over Venezuela's leadership.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez grew up in this small quiet town, full of restaurants serving grilled meat and shaded avenues sheltering residents from the blistering heat.

Barinas, “Ciudad de mi Corazon, Ciudad de mis Amores (The city of my heart, the city I love”) just the way Chavez likes to repeatedly say, is the perfect illustration of Chavezism: a clean and relatively secure city, with new social housing for residents, a large football stadium, cultural centres and, soon, a new airport.

During a visit to campaign for his brother Adan (the eldest of the Chavez brothers who’s now running for Governor and who hopes to succeed his father as Governor of Barinas), Hugo Chavez inaugurated a new dairy products factory which will run on Iranian technology: “This is an example of socialism,” he said. "Science, technology, food, and dignity are the country’s main principals. After having retrieved the land, we’re are going to set up the main factory and we are going to do the same thing in all parts of the city.”

Devanira Marquez, Operations manager of the CVA Lacteos factory, said, “It’s important for us because this factory will guarantee food safety and creation of jobs.”


In the overcrowded Carolina stadium,  the relentlessly energetic Hugo Chavez addressed supporters in rojo-rojito ( red, deep red) t-shirts bearing the slogan “Vamos con todo” (Let’s go till the very end). Recalling  “the revolution”, Chavez criticized his political adversaries: “Manuel Rosales is a shameless thief, truly corrupt and is ready to abandon the country”, he said while speaking about the separatist governor of the rich oil producing province of Zulia.

Photo : François-Xavier Freland.

Sitting on a bench in the pretty colonial Simon Bolivar Square, where the air is  filled with tunes played on the violin or the flute by musicians, Carlos Valencia, an old gentleman said: “I’m originally Colombian. I was a mechanic and I’m not going to vote as I only have the resident permit but I feel like a Venezuelian because I’m proud of what Hugo Chavez did here. He made the people proud, he works hard. Look, you just need to open your eyes and see all that he has done. This man is going to complete the work started by Simon Bolivar two centuries ago in Latin America.”

At the same time there are residents who are unhappy with Chavez.  On the same Bolivar Square, we came across a lady who preferred to speak anonymously.  “I work in the public sector, ” she said  “It’s a shame to see all that’s happening here and in my country and this is only the beginning. Do you think it’s normal that a city or an entire region is governed by a single family?” she asked.


Date created : 2008-11-23