Meeting Venezuela's voters

Heading to the polls in Caracas, voters describe the issues they and the country are facing.


    Caracas, Venezuela - Voting is underway in Venezuela's first presidential election in 14 years without populist leader Hugo Chavez.

    Prior to the election, most opinion polls forecast an easy victory for interim president Nicolas Maduro, but the gap between Chavez's anointed successor and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles seems to have narrowed in recent days.

    Chavez is arguably playing a larger role in the campaign than either of the two leading candidates, and the vote is widely seen as a referendum on Chavez's populist policies.

    Al Jazeera visited three polling stations in various sectors of Caracas to canvass the opinions of voters.

    Johnaly Orozco, accountant, voting in Chacao, an upper-class district

    "The future of our country is at stake. Security and the economy are the biggest issues.

    "Whoever wins, in the first 100 days, they should just do what they promised to.

    "If God doesn't take care of us, we are just going to keep going into decay."

    Lescar Gonzalez, tax lawyer, voting in January 23, a poor community

    "Health and education for my kids are the most important issues.

    "My life has changed in a big way over the past 14 years [the time since the Socialist Party was first elected].

    "Chavez taught us to love the homeland. We have received benefits from the government that have improved our lives a lot."

    Geraldo Perez, businessman, voting in the downtown core, a lower-middle class area

    "The biggest issue is coming to vote.

    "Here people are more involved with politics, compared to the US. They feel the need to vote and I hope we will move in the right direction.

    "Everything is at stake here, health, security and the economy.

    "We hope it will be a fair vote. We hope the new government, in their first 100 days in office, brings in foreign investors and guarantees the safety of their investments."

    Marlina Flores, voting in January 23, a poor community

    "For me, the biggest issue is that the revolution goes on.

    "We are starting to love Maduro. He was Chavez's right hand and he is a son of Chavez.

    "The new government should continue the legacy of Chavez in all aspects." 

    Ricardo Diaz, sports trainer, voting in Chacao, an upper-class district

    "The most important thing is that all Venezuelans vote. This is not the time to stay home.

    "The issues are a series of things - security and the economy.

    "Venezuela is one of the most insecure countries in the Americas. The government has been in power for 14 years and they haven't fixed this.

    "If our economy was better, we would be more secure."

    Luis Gonzalez, telecomms operator, voting in January 23, a poor community

    "We are an oil producing country and we must fight to keep our oil, because the multinationals want to take it. Healthcare is free now [because of the Socialist Party]. In the last 14 years, our mindset has changed so much. Poverty has been reduced."

    Can Maduro fill the shoes of Hugo Chavez?

    "You might love your uncle or a neighbour, but you would love your dad more. We are voting for Maduro because that's what Chavez wanted. We aren't really supporting a man, but an idea."

    Felicia, administrator, voting in Chacao, an upper-class district

    "Both the candidates are waging a dirty war against each other. May the best one win, honestly.

    "The direction of the country isn't good, or bad, just regular. You can't say everything is good or everything is bad.

    "That's the honest truth."


    Follow Chris Arsenault on Twitter: @AJEchris

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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