Venezuelans will head to the polls April 14 to replace deceased leader Hugo Chavez. The bombastic socialist strongman died last month after losing a battle to cancer. Running to replace Chavez are his hand-picked successor and vice president, Nicolas Maduro, and the leader of the opposition, Henrique Capriles Radonski. Chavez had previously defeated the center-right Capriles back during the Venezuelan election in October.
Maduro has built his entire campaign around connecting himself to Chavez and trying to demonize both Capriles and the favorite bogeyman of the Chavistas, the United States. The paranoid panderer has publicly accused the United States of murdering Chavez, and frequently says Chavez is speaking to him from beyond the grave. Just as his former master did in the last election, Maduro works to cast Capriles as the fascist tool of both the U.S. and the Zionists, seeking to under Venezuela's social safety nets and turn the oil-rich country into a vassal of the American Empire.
Capriles, as he did in his previous run against Chavez, is building his campaign around the idea of taking Venezuela along a different, more peaceful, and more prosperous path than the Chavistas. The charismatic governor has vowed to return more power and autonomy to state and local governments after Chavez's centralization of power in Caracas. He has said that he will maintain many of the popular social programs of the Chavez government, will work to improve diplomatic and trade relations with the United States, and will cut off the oil supply to Cuba's repressive Castro regime. Playing offense much more than in the last election, Capriles has accused Maduro of being a puppet of the Castro brothers.
According to the polls, Maduro is the overall favorite to win. With the funding from the government's oil treasures, support from the state-run media, and the Chavistas' effort to create a cult around Hugo Chavez with Nicolas Maduro as the high priest, he simply has far, far more resources against the beleaguered and harassed opposition. While international human rights organizations have criticized the government's actions, and the Human Rights Foundation has called upon the Organization of American States to dispatch electoral observers to Venezuela, there will likely be little accountability for Maduro and his backers. If Capriles wants to win, he will need a massive surge in support over the coming days to make that possible.
The next president of Venezuela will face a heap of problems left over from Chavez's 14-year rule. A sluggish economy, massive inflation, rampant crime, a horrifying murder rate, and continued crackdowns on civil liberties will lead to a rather unhappy population soon. Thinking on that, Capriles might be better off not sitting in the presidential palace — but the Venezuelan people certainly won't be.
Election results will be available shortly after the polls close April 14.
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