Venezuela municipal elections bolster Maduro’s leftist policies

Venezuelans went to the polls to elect mayors and municipal councils on Dec. 8. The raucous right-wing opposition, led by Miranda State Governor Enrique Capriles Radonski and his Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) party, had claimed that this election was going to be a note of no confidence on the left-wing policies of President Nicolas Maduro. However, this boast proved to be vain as the voters gave Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela and its allies a solid victory.

After the premature death due to cancer of President Hugo Chavez on March 5 this year came a hard-fought presidential election on April 14, which Maduro won but by a considerably smaller margin than anticipated. Capriles Radonski, his opponent in that election, refused to recognize the results and tense street confrontations followed. The United States also refused to recognize Maduro's win, leading to a worsening of U.S.-Venezuela relations.

Through the balance of the year, the corporate-controlled press in Venezuela, the United States and worldwide has focused on Venezuela's social and economic problems:  A high crime rate (though not as high as U.S. allied Honduras), inflation and an annoying scarcity of some consumer goods.  In spite of the fact that on other measures, such as growth in gross domestic product and balance of trade, Venezuela has been doing well, the publicizing of the areas of difficulty has led to claims that the Venezuelan economy is near collapse and that voters would, on Dec. 8, sweep allied local governments allied with Maduro's party out of power.

Critics of Chavez' policies, which Maduro is continuing, generally fail to note that the policies they deplore have cut Venezuela's poverty rate in half and provided educational and health care services to millions who lacked these things before.  

In the run-up to the election, President Maduro got authorization from the Venezuelan Congress to act decisively (an enabling law that has been used often by previous Venezuelan presidents), and then went after speculators who he claims, with reason, have been feeding inflation and hoarding consumer goods. Specifically, Maduro accused wholesale merchants of charging huge markups on imported goods. The government obliged merchants to significantly lower the prices of certain kinds of merchandise. There were howls of protest from the business community and the opposition, but the general public seems to have approved of the measures.

On election day, there was a 59 percent turnout. Maduro's PSUV candidates got 49.2 percent of the vote, Capriles' MUD candidates and other rightists got 42.72 percent. The rest was spread among smaller parties, some of which are in fact allied with the Chavista governmet.  For example the Venezuelan Communist Party, which supports Maduro nationally but also runs some of its own candidates locally, got 1.6 percent of the vote, totaling 165,000 votes overall.  

This translated, as of early last week, into 196 municipal governments for Maduro's party, 54 for the MUD, 8 for other parties and the rest too close to call at that point. President Maduro now says that with allies, the government got 54 percent, and the PSUV got a total of 210 municipalities out of the 335 in the country.

Capriles Radonski claimed that the relatively low voter turnout should be interpreted as a rejection of the government's policies. In other words: "sour grapes." The opposition also tries to comfort itself by the fact that it won in some major cities, including retaining Barinas, the birthplace of Hugo Chavez. But Maduro responded that his PSUV had won 71 percent of the municipalities in Miranda state, whose governor is none other than Enrique Capriles Radonski.

The next election in Venezuela is a national legislative one, in 2015.  Maduro made clear that this means full speed ahead for his radical program both internally and internationally. He has now introduced new policies to improve job security and encourage savings.

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  • Rob---

    The other thing that the ruling left, pro-worker, pro-people's govt. in Venezuela is, is that they are successful & THEY ARE THE WINNERS!! If they are as horrible as US corporate media always reports on any govt. that attempts to help their own people while limiting control of outside (esp. US) corporations, the people there would not be going to the polls (verified by UN observers as fair) & electing & reelecting the left/socialist/pro-labor & people's govt. over and over again.

    This "horrible" govt. has developed a huge rebuilding program, building homes for regular people, gotten miedicine and food to poor Venezuelans free or at cost, opened quality education to all, not only the rich, taken that nation's great oil reserves and is using profits for the people, not only the super wealthy and has established real quality health care for all. For this, they are praised throughout Latin America and beloved by poor and working families! For this, they are despised by the wealthy who've ruling with impunity over people there for many generations, and they are universally condemned by the hireling spokesmen of these parasites in the corporate owned press of our own nation!

    Posted by bruce bostick, 12/28/2013 12:33pm (2 years ago)

  • This article is quite amusing.

    Scarcity is annoying? Tell that to the people who stand in line all the time when there is a rumor of Harina Pan or some other staple at the grocery.

    Crime is "not as high as U.S. allied Honduras"? Honduran crime rates to not reflect on the US. By the same logic, Venezuela's crime rate reflects on your beloved Cuba. FYI, the murder rate in Venezuela is 10 times that of the US. Don't forget about all the kidnappings in Venezuela.

    The suggestion that Capriles is right wing is ridiculous. Does he want a thriving private business community? Yes, but that doesn't make a person right wing otherwise Norway, Sweden, Canada etc are all right wing. What about China? Capriles knows, as you should, that no country has thrived without a healthy private business community. Please do not say Cuba is thriving. That would make you even more naive than you already appear.

    The April and November elections were fairly split on popular vote. Considering the MUD have no access to or support from the television media, considering all the slanderous things being said about the opposition on television and by the government, considering the PSUV biased CNE and TSJ and all the electoral irregularities that go ignored, it's no surprise that the opposition lose.

    Now Luisa Ortega Diaz wants a judge to bar El Universal from reporting on crime. PSUV have been completely ineffective on the crime front (murders are 4-5 times more than when Chavez first took office) so now they want to hide it "from children's eyes". Children seeing violence and crime in the streets is okay but not in the newspaper. PSUV has conquered television and now it's time to go after print. Next it will be the internet until they completely control the message.

    What a foul lot is PSUV. They are corrupt, incompetent, and..............................wealthy.

    Posted by Rob, 12/17/2013 7:26pm (2 years ago)

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