Two more weeks to go before the Venezuelan Presidential Elections… The current tensions and tricks used by the Chavez’ campaign shall remind us, who are living in democratic countries, how democracy is fragile and needs always to be defended… The following bulletin summarizes the most important events in Venezuela´s presidential elections during the second week of September (Wednesday 12 – Wednesday 19). Have a look at it!Pierre-Antoine KLETHI
Only 17 days away from presidential elections to take place in Venezuela, and all polls agree on the increasing intention of vote towards the opposition’s candidate: Henrique Capriles. During this past week, public opinion has focused on accusations towards Chávez’s corruption, and allegations regarding the bribery scandal of the parliamentarian, Juan Carlos Caldera. Far more concerning is the lack of attention to the declarations of the Ex Minister Aponte Aponte, who under oath and in exile, confessed that he received direct orders from president Chávez to condemn several officials of the Metropolitan Police to 30 years in prison, due to the events that occurred on April 11th, 2002. In this light, international politics also gained a lot of space in the media; especially with recent actions made by Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos. First he publicly congratulated president Chávez for capturing the Colombian Drug Lord, Daniel “El Loco” Barrera, and then he received Capriles in Bogota the next day. On one side or another, Santos said that he hopes for a massive and peaceful participation of the Venezuelan people during the upcoming elections.
1. They were offered $ 200,000 to withdraw their support for Capriles
David De Lima, former governor of the State of Anzoátegui, was charged on Wednesday, September 13th, by many political organizations and leaders of the Comando Venezuela (opposition), of trying to “buy their consciences”. (1) According to Macario Gonzales, coordinator of the opposition’s Unity Round Table (MUD) for the State of Lara, along with seven other political organizations, including Democracia Renovadora, Unidad Visión Venezuela and Arca de Noé, De Lima offered each of them $200,000 to withdraw their support for the candidate Capriles, and support the President in his campaign.
Gonzalez said he met with emissaries sent by De Lima in Barquisimeto, who offered him cash or key public offices. The emissaries told him that both De Lima and William Ojeda, former members of the opposition who recently joined the ruling party, had already agreed to accept the economic incentive. Gonzales stated that the emissaries said he could “choose any other item of Capriles’ agenda and begin to question it” in order to support the President’s campaign. (2)
2. Chávez accused of corruption and Juan Carlos Caldera accused of bribery
On Thursday August 13th, a group of exiled political leaders presented the written confession of former Supreme Tribunal Of Justice judge, Eladio Aponte Aponte, in which he stated that the candidate and president, Hugo Chávez, gave him direct orders to condemn several officials of the dissolved Metropolitan Police to 30 years in prison for the events occurred on April 11th, 2002. (3) A few hours later, members of the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (government’s party), accused Parliamentary Representative Juan Carlos Caldera of bribery, supposedly committed to benefit the campaign of candidate Henrique Capriles, by showing a video portraying Caldera receiving money.
The confession of Aponte – notarized in Costa Rica – stands out. In it, he explained: “It is an urgent duty for me to declare that I have committed the sin of ordering the judges who sentenced the officials to condemn them to 30 years in prison no matter what the consequences. I was following direct orders from President Hugo Chávez who ordered me to do so”. He also said that he would ratify his confession in independent courts from any democratic country that respects freedom. (4)
Meanwhile, regarding the charges of bribery, Caldera said in a press conference that he is being accused of receiving a bribe, “without explaining what, how and who” and that the video shown is a professional one, similar to a studio’s video, which was set up specifically to record the meeting like an ambush. Caldera said he met with businessman Wilmer Ruperti, who offered him support for his campaign as Mayor of the Sucre Municipality. Ruperti asked Caldera to get in touch with his colleague, Luis Peña who, according to Caldera, is the other person appearing in the video. In three meetings at Mr. Ruperti´s house, Caldera received a total of 40,000 bolivars ($ 4000) for his campaign. (5)
Regarding Caldera, the presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, stated at noon of the same day, that the parliamentary representative, was expelled from Comando Venezuela. He said: “Nobody has the right to use my name to seek political benefits. [Caldera] has been excluded from the political campaign; he is also excluded as our representative before the National Electoral Council (CNE). We are at the service of the authorities regarding the investigations to be made.” (6)
The First Vice President of the National Assembly (AN), Aristóbulo Istúriz, reported that on Tuesday September 18th, the Assembly would dedicate part of its session to discuss the issue. Istúriz insisted that the point to be discussed seriously is corruption and party financing. During an ordinary meeting at the AN, Caldera resigned his parliamentary immunity putting himself at the mercy of the country’s institutions. (7)
3. Capriles forced to arrive at Port Cabello by boat
On Wednesday September 12th, during his town to town campaign, the opposition’s candidate Henrique Capriles, visited Port Cabello, home of Carabobo State’s biggest port. Regardless of his intentions, Capriles could not access the city through its natural entrance by land. Organized riots carried out by the ruling party’s followers blocked the streets with State trucks. As a result of these violent events, 4 civilians were wounded including a reporter from the AFP news agency. (8)
Thanks to a group of fishermen who offered Capriles access by water, the candidate arrived to his destination on time. He stated: “I was never going to stand you up, if I would have had to come running to Port Cabello, I would have done it (…) There’s a candidate with 14 years in power, who does not want to campaign throughout the country, stuck in a Palace in flip-flops, who doesn’t go out in the street, whose project wore out along with him, and I point him out directly, it is you, government’s candidate, who wants a violent campaign, who wants to spread fear, who wants Venezuelans to keep confronting each other”. (9)
4. Candidate Chávez’s concentration in Apure
In the city of San Fernando de Apure, a concentration in support of the incumbent candidate Hugo Chávez took place. In the event, the president stated that in 2013 Venezuela will enter into a new cycle of national development. He presented the Simón Bolívar National Project, and said that it will prove useful to all social classes, given that “we are the guarantee of national stability and national development.” He referred to the project of candidate Capriles, calling it a neoliberal program that intends to sentence people to misery. “The campaign of the bourgeoisie is based in deception”, he added (10).
On addressing his plans for Apure State, Chávez mentioned that his project for government included boasting agricultural development, the construction of a milk processing plant, the creation of the river navigation enterprise “Apurinoco”, the amplification of railway plans of the San Fernando-Calabozo-San Juan de los Morros Railway, the opening of the San Fernando de Apure Hospital and the construction of 10,000 new homes, among others (11). During the concentration, the candidate made a petition to God with a breaking voice and tears in his eyes, saying: “more than generous God, I ask you for that vote. If it’s not possible, I still thank you for this life, for this struggle and for this new stage that begins October 7th with the perfect victory”. Social media outlets mentioned that this could be about an eventual goodbye (12).
5. Capriles and his foreign policy plans
In an interview made by Andrés Oppenheimer for CNN in Spanish, the candidate Henrique Capriles mentioned several points that will constitute the foreign policy of his Government. First of all, he pointed out that “Venezuela will stop financing other countries”, adding that the Venezuelan oil resources will no longer be given away. Furthermore, he will only align with countries “where there’s democracy and a profound respect for human rights, (…) Venezuela with the Government of progress, will be in every international instance that seeks to protect human rights” (13).
When addressing the international accompaniment, Capriles noted that “it is important that we have international eyes watching over the process, we would like more support, help and transparency, but the process still keeps depending on us”. “When one is organized and has the majority’s support, one overcomes any of the Government’s traps and tricks”. He considers that the electoral process isn’t fair; nevertheless he trusts that through the power of vote he will beat a “government that controls institutions and plays dirty” (14).
Representatives of national polling agencies and public opinion experts, debated in the headquarters of the journal Últimas Noticias possible scenarios for October 7th elections. Luis Christiansen, president of Consultares 21, gives Capriles as the winner with a two point lead. On the other hand, the director of GIS XXI, Jesse Chacón, former Interior and Justice Minister, noted that 60.1% of the undecided would lean towards Chávez, who they predict a winner. (15)