Sun, Feb 04, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Party backs Maduro in re-election bid

OUT THE GATE RUNNING:The Venezuelan president did not wait for a nomination before campaigning with boastful TV ads, salsa dancing and vows for subsidies


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro waves a United Socialist Party flag during a party congress plenary in Caracas on Friday.

Photo: Reuters / Miraflores Palace

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday got the seal of approval from his ruling party to stand for re-election against a weakened opposition barred from fielding a united rival candidate.

The snap poll is to happen before the end of April, after the Constituent Assembly — a super-legislature stacked with Maduro loyalists — announced last week the vote was being brought forward from December.

The Supreme Court, which critics say systematically bows to Maduro, has barred the opposition coalition from fielding a candidate under its banner and banned several prominent opposition figures from participating. The opposition says the moves are designed to engineer a second term for Maduro.

The ruling Socialist Party on Friday officially voted to make the president its candidate for the election.

Party deputy leader Diosdado Cabello said it was “totally natural” that Maduro, 55, be given the nomination, calling him a “comrade of irreproachable revolutionary conduct.”

“We are going to win, I have no doubts of that,” Cabello said.

Argentina has said it would not recognize the results of the presidential election, and other major South American nations might follow suit.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on a tour of South America, during which he is raising Venezuela’s crisis with governments in the region.

Maduro is the heir to a Socialist “revolution” in Venezuela started by his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Tall, mustachioed and lacking Chavez’s charisma, Maduro has bullishly pushed on with policies of nationalization of companies and currency exchange rate controls, even as the economic tide turned against Venezuela following a crash in the price of oil in 2014.

Although his popularity has improved slightly in recent months, about 70 percent of Venezuelans still view him negatively, according to the Delphos survey firm.

Many blame him for the scarcity of basic products and for inflation which this year is expected to reach 13,000 percent, according to the IMF — the highest in the world.

Maduro and his government defend themselves by saying the economic crisis is the work of enemy nations in cahoots with right-wing businesspeople seeking to bring him down.

Maduro did not wait for his official nomination to start campaigning for re-election. As soon as the early poll was announced, electioneering videos boasting of Maduro achievements were repeated on state television, the president danced salsa at political meetings and he announced a range of subsidies for pregnant women, the handicapped and retirees.

Maduro stands a chance of victory “if the opposition doesn’t make good choices, calibrated ones,” said Felix Seijas of Delphos. “The odds of Maduro winning the election, even without cheating, exist.”

That scenario already cast a pall over talks between the opposition and the government in the Dominican Republic that have so far failed to secure an agreement on how to salve the festering domestic crisis. More discussions are scheduled for tomorrow.

“The election date is at the core of the talks,” a negotiator from the opposition’s United Democratic Roundtable coalition said.

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