July 9, 2012 1 Comment
Daniel Crump @dannycru
Later this year, the citizens of Venezuela will go to the polls to decide whether the Hugo Chavez era will continue for another six years. His opponent, Henrique Capriles, head of the Democratic Unity coalition (MUD), promises Venezuela social and political reform and a return to bosom of the International Community after years of suspicion and a stint in George Bush’s Axis of Evil.
Despite the clear battle lines currently being drawn by both candidates, Mr Capriles appears to be refusing to charge in head first into an absolute criticism of the President’s rule, instead preferring to score his opponent well on some issues whilst maintaining a ‘could do better’ approach to others. This may well be because of the nature of the Chavez years, at best a passionate, nationalist defence of the spirit of Simon Bolivar, and at worst, a couple of election results away from being the 21st Century’s most unpredictable dictatorship.
Thanks to the President’s media hegemony following a failed 2002 coup against him, Venezuelans are treated to daily Presidential addresses and regularly see scheduled television programming interrupted by speeches with no set time limit. This has no doubt permeated Venezuelan way of life to the extent that even Chavez’s opponents must struggle to visualise an MUD period of power. Being so used the familiar, even when not finding it favourable, has the effect of casting dark shadows over the alternative and this is something Hugo Chavez looks set to exploit. Perhaps wisely, Capriles stays firmly on the side of caution when voicing his desire for reform.
When it comes to Venezuelan policies on oil manufacturing, the opposition recognises that the largest state owned firm, PDVSA, has become a symbol of national pride, much in the same way as YPF has come to personify the credibility of the Argentinean state and its leader Christina Fernandez. Therefore, despite being more inclined to privatisation in principle, Capriles proposes to keep PDVSA in state hands whilst introducing a more professional and cost effective system of management, making the company ‘de-politicised’. This is in line with his wider vision for Venezuelan business, arguing that a sweeping wave of privatisation is not what the country currently needs, but promising to look at each case on its merits.
If Hugo Chavez has become synonymous with oil policy and wealth redistribution, Mr. Capriles has sighted education as his flagship policy. He has been vocal in praising the President for building more schools, along with more health centres, in the country’s most deprived areas, something the opposition leader promises to continue. However, he has called for a more professional approach to the running of new schools and aims to curb the high levels of corruption and political partisanship that has been an unfortunate side effect of Chavez’s social policies. Capriles sights education as the long-term solution to Venezuela’s high crime wave, the issue that most Venezuelans claim to worry most about. Read more of this post