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Inside Story Americas

Ruling a post-Chavez Venezuela

What do the government and opposition election campaigns say about the future strategies planned for the country?

Last Modified: 13 Apr 2013 14:15
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It is little more than a month after the death of Hugo Chavez, and Venezuela will soon name his successor. The clear favourite is the acting president, Nicolas Maduro, who has promised to continue Chavez's Bolivarian revolution.

The race has not been close, but it has been colourful with insults flying between both candidates.

 

Charles Hardy, author of Cowboy in Caracas, took us on a tour around his old neighbourhood in Venezuela's capital

The opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, has made various attempts to mock his rival - whether over Maduro's former career as a bus driver or for his claim that the spirit of Chavez had approached him in the form of a bird. Maduro, for his part, has hit back calling Capriles a "prince of the bourgeoisie".

Capriles, the candidate of the Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition (MUD), describes himself as a 'centrist'.

His campaign has emphasised the importance of education to bring down crime levels in the country. He has also promised not to nationalise any more businesses, and has pledged to raise the minimum wage by 40 percent.

Throughout his campaign, Capriles has also pledged to continue the social programmes put in place by Chavez, even though a document leaked from the MUD in July suggests otherwise.

The document said Capriles would deregulate the banking sector, cut back on social spending, including communal councils and housing assistance, and remove the "nationalist ideology" from the petroleum and mining sector, and cut back on the government market places that sell products at a discount to the poor.

Maduro, candidate of the United Socialist Party Of Venezuela (PSUV), is promising to implement Chavez's 'Socialist Plan of the Nation 2013-2019', which aims to strengthen existing housing and healthcare initiatives, establish more communal councils and build more state factories.

"It is we the people who are going to continue dictating the revolutionary plan. Our ally, Maduro is going to win the elections, certainly. But he is going to have to stay close to us because as communal councils, as grassroots organisations, we are going to keep pushing for change in Venezuela, in Latin America and the world."

- Freddy Mendoza, Venezuelan communal council leader

The plan also aims to further erode the influence of large landowners through land redistribution. Maduro also promised to raise the minimum wage by between 38 and 45 percent.

Coming so soon after the last presidential election, and with such a short time-frame, it was perhaps too much to expect a truly substantive presidential debate about the many serious issues facing Venezuela.

But ahead of Sunday's election, what do both the government and the opposition's election campaigns tell us about their future strategies in a post-Chavez world?

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, speaks to guests: Alex Main, from the Center for Economic and Policy Research who is in Venezuela working as an electoral monitor; David Smilde, a senior fellow from the Washington Office on Latin America; and Carl Meacham, director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Chavez's legacy

Chavez's Bolivarian revolution is often portrayed as top-down - based on one charismatic man and his petrodollars. But Inside Story Americas visited the poor neighborhood of La Vega, where people have been organising from the ground up, and they say that's not going to change.  

Supporters of Hugo Chavez often point to how much he changed the lives of Venezuela’s poor for the better.

Someone well placed to witness that change was American Charles Hardy, a former Catholic priest who was sent to live in one of Caracas’s slums. He has stayed in the country ever since, and has authored a book on Venezuela's democratic revolution called Cowboy in Caracas.

Hardy invited Inside Story Americas' cameras for a tour around his old neighbourhood, describing conditions nearly 30 years ago, in the days before Chavez.

"We really felt things would never change. We kept fighting. We fought for housing, but outside of here. We didn’t want more houses here. We knew they wouldn’t last. And when you look at history of this place, they didn’t last. The buildings crumbled. The mountains, there were landslides. Chavez was elected in 1998. He became president in February of 1999. A few months after that, he came here to Nueva Tacagua, and they dynamited one of the buildings, because he did not want this place to go on existing. He wanted people to have dignified houses .... Life has changed, and for the people who are still here, they are talking about three, four months from now, they are going to have new apartments, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and they are looking forward to it. As we were looking forward to it – 25 years ago."

- Charles Hardy, author of Cowboy in Caracas

 

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Al Jazeera
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