Venezuela tunes in for a catchy campaign

Nicolas Maduro is whistling along with the spirit of Hugo Chavez, but opposition has a salsa all-star of its own.


    On the map, Venezuela is considered a part or South America. In terms of culture, however, it is without a doubt a Caribbean nation.

    Therefore, when it comes to elections, extraordinary events can be expected.

    I was at Nicolas Maduro's opening campaign rally in Barinas, where the ruling Socialist party candidate left many in the audience with their mouths wide open.

    Maduro  explained that a few hours earlier the spirit of deceased President Hugo Chavez had appeared before him in the form of a bird that flew into the chapel where he was praying for wisdom and strength.

    Maduro whistled, which he does very well, to imitate the exchange he had with the little bird: "I ask for respect for my feelings and my spirituality. I felt at that moment that I was receiving a blessing from that giant, who was our commander of all battles."

    The opposition, and much of the international media, rushed to ridicule Maduro.

    Even so, he was undaunted.

    He repeated the story at the next rally, this time as supporters cheered and waved cardboard cutouts of a bird. 

    'Ripe' for the job 

    Others were carrying huge cutouts of a plantain, which in Spanish is called a maduro, like the candidate's last name, which also means "ripe" or "mature". (Naturally, Maduro says he is "ripe" for the job.)

    Yet, Maduro is struggling to fill the shoes of his charismatic predecessor, especially in public.

    The former foreign minister is a poor public speaker, but, at least in the last few days, he has learned to joke around, especially with the maduros.

    Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles is energetic and clearly comfortable addressing crowds, but he had been trailing Maduro in the catchy jingle department.

    That was until the eleventh hour, when famous Puerto Rican Salsa legend Willie Colon came e to the opposition's rescue with a campaign song called "The Latest Lie".

    Opponents now sing and dance to the lyrics, which accuse Maduro and the government of breaking all their promises.

    The song says Capriles is the man Venezuela needs to reduce crime, corruption, blackouts and food shortages.

    Still, Capriles will need a lot more than a catchy tune to defeat an opponent whose legitimacy rests on the fact that he was handpicked by the wildly popular late president to succeed him.

    On every poster, T-shirt and  slogan, Maduro and Chavez are together.

    The current catchphrase is: Chavez te lo juro, mi vote es para Maduro. It means: "Chavez, I swear to you, my vote is for Maduro".

    The message - however subliminal it may be - is that Chavez will be looking down on everyone on election day, and he will see who will or will not betray his memory and legacy.



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