The Venezuelan revolution divided in the cradle of Chavismo

SABANETA, Venezuela (AP) – Nancy Mora longs for the affection she says the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has shown to her people. She touches her heart when she talks about the man she always calls her president and believes the revolution he sparked will continue as long as self-proclaimed Chavistas like her are alive.

But in the Venezuelan community of Mora, northwest of Sabaneta, Chávez’s birthplace, not everyone remains as true to her ideas as she is. Some of its longtime supporters now feel abandoned by the ruling party and overwhelmed by a crippling economy and lack of basic public services.

The Chavismo’s internal struggles were summed up by the apparent defeat – and its aftermath – of one of Chávez’s brothers in the gubernatorial elections in November. Now, after the apparent winner in Barinas state was retroactively disqualified, an election overhaul is scheduled for Sunday.

The ballot for Barinas’ special election does not include Chavez for the first time in more than two decades, but the attempt of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela to attract voters to the polls depends on what the family name symbolizes for people like Mora.

“The socialist revolution is an emotion that is not yet dead; it’s an emotion we all carry, ”said Mora, 41, on a tour of Chávez’s childhood home, now turned into a museum.

Mora said Chávez taught him that revolution is about equality. “It’s a socialism of love,” she said, but she couldn’t explain why millions of people in this South American country struggle to live on a monthly minimum wage of $ 2. while others may drop $ 15 for lunch at a cafe.

Chávez, elected in 1998, pledged to improve the lives of Venezuela’s poorest people by using the country’s oil. It expanded social services, including housing and education, thanks to the country’s oil bonanza, which generated estimated revenues of some $ 981 billion between 1999 and 2011 as oil prices soared.

But corruption, a decline in oil production, and economic policies led to a crisis that became evident in 2012. Chávez would die of cancer the following year after appointing Nicolás Maduro as his successor.

The country’s political, social and economic crises, linked to falling oil production and prices, continued under Maduro’s watch. More than 5 million people have left the country and millions more live in poverty, facing low wages, high food prices and the world’s worst rate of inflation.

The United Nations food aid agency has estimated that one in three Venezuelans struggle to consume enough calories per day.

The ruling party’s vote count has been declining since 2017. About 6.5 million people voted for pro-government candidates in that year’s regional elections. On November 21, that number fell to around 3.7 million.

Opposition candidate Freddy Superlano was ahead of Argenis Chávez by less than a percentage point when the country’s highest court disqualified him on November 29. The court, which is one of many government bodies considered loyal to the Maduro government, ignored a presidential pardon that had made Superlano and other members of the opposition eligible.

The measures taken in Barinas have raised new doubts about the fairness of the Venezuelan electoral system following the first ballot in years in which most of the major political movements took part, a ballot monitored by more than 130 observers from the Union European Union, the UN and the US-based Carter Center.

Rosa Hidalgo has a poster of Chavez’s latest presidential campaign in a corner of her house. She is close to his family and has cooked for him on several occasions even after he became president. She’s grateful for the fridge he gave her, but she still hasn’t voted for her brother on November 21.

For her, the revolution “may be” a thing of the past. She is now praying for jobs for her community so that people do not have to immigrate.

“Chavez was very good. But what happened was like you are good and put me in charge and I’m no good and ruin your party and your job, ”said Hidalgo, 84, referring to to Maduro and his team. “Maduro did not come to my house to ask for votes. Maduro arrived because Chavez knew he was going to die. I am not really a Madurista.

This distinction is more and more common.

Oscar Vallés, a political analyst and professor at the Metropolitan University of Caracas, said many Chavistas wish to maintain some type of access to government-offered social programs, such as boxes of subsidized food and vouchers, but they are unwilling to openly promote Maduro’s agenda. job.

“They have an ambiguous position on this,” Vallés said. “They are punishing in a way those officials of Maduro who do not fulfill their role, so much so that Maduro, following the result of November 21, declared that the great enemy of the revolution are the public officials who do not not conform (with their homework) and whose heads will roll.

In addition to Superlano’s disqualification, his wife, who was chosen to succeed him, was disqualified. His replacement too. Sunday’s poll includes Sergio Garrido, a US-backed opposition candidate, Claudio Fermin, an opposition dissident, and Jorge Arreaza, a former foreign minister.

When Maduro announced that Arreaza was the ruling party candidate, Hugo Chávez was mentioned several times in speeches, two large photos of him were placed in a gymnasium where people gathered for the announcement, and his connection to Arreaza has also come to light. Arreaza is the father of one of Hugo Chávez’s grandchildren.

“Chavez will of course remain as a mythical figure that the whole world will want to emulate on the Chavismo side, but the political cost of the Maduro regime is extremely high,” Vallés said. “I think the Chavismo is getting smaller and smaller and there will come a time when running for political office with (the ruling party logo) on your chest will even be unfavorable.”

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