Friday, April 12, 2013

Venezuela Campaigns End Ahead of Sunday Elections

Both Venezuelan interim President Nicolas Maduro and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles officially ended their campaigns yesterday. The former held a major rally in Caracas in which Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona made an appearance, and the latter held an assembly in the western state of Lara.

El Nacional has an overview of the highlights of the 10-day campaign, which was characterized by heightened rhetoric and numerous personal attacks between both camps.

The latest survey by respected polling firm Datanalisis shows Maduro leading with 54.8 percent support to Capriles’ 45.1 percent, and while the gap is smaller than in polls a month ago which showed the interim leader with a 14-point lead, there is very little doubt that Maduro will win Sunday’s election.

Writing for the Venezuela Human Rights and Politics blog, Hugo Perez Hernaiz and David Smilde look at some of the advantages that Maduro’s status as incumbent has given his campaign. While many analyses of Maduro’s edge -- see this Atlantic article published yesterday -- focus on his reliance on state media and frequent use of mandatory broadcasts, Perez and Smilde argue that special budget announcements are an important and overlooked contributor to Maduro’s advantage, and give examples of social projects he has announced while on the campaign trail.

Caracas Chronicles’ Juan Cristobal Nagel offers an insightful criticism of the Capriles campaign, specifically targeting its press chief, Ana Maria Fernandez. In addition to accusing Fernandez of being dismissive towards foreign press and new media, he claims she turned down an offer for Capriles to appear on state television and kicked out state journalists from a press conference, despite Capriles’ own criticism of official news agencies for not covering his campaign.

For more on the election, see Al Jazeera English on the fight for undecided votes in Venezuela, Reuters on what it means for Hugo Chavez’s political legacy, and Univision’s Manuel Rueda on what both candidates “represent.”

News Briefs
  • The Associated Press features a highly critical piece on blackouts, persistent rural poverty and lack of housing in Venezuela, referring to the issues as Chavismo's “unfulfilled promises.”
  • Just after Uruguay’s Congress voted to make the country the third in the Western Hemisphere to legalize same-sex marriage, Chilean lawmakers took steps to recognize gay rights as well. On Wednesday, the Constitutional, Legislative, and Judicial Committee in Chile’s Senate approved a measure calling for the legislature to debate a bill which would legally recognize same-sex couples, although it stops short of allowing full marriage equality.
  • In her second interview since the announcement of her candidacy in November’s presidential elections, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said she would support the idea of a new constitution if elected. In remarks made to online magazine The Clinic, Bachelet announced that she would be gathering a group of legal specialists to assess the feasibility of a new constitution “very soon.” She also broadly endorsed the issues of Mapuche rights, gay marriage, and tax reform.
  • Peruvian President Ollanta Humala is enjoying record support, according to recent opinion polls. La Republica reports that his approval rating has risen nine points in the last month alone, and now stands at 60 percent.
  • The AP profiles recent setbacks for Barrick Gold Corp and other major mining companies in Latin America, where mining endeavors have come under strong criticism from social movements concerned with environmental and health standards, as well as governments calling for increased regulation and royalties.
  • The New York Times reports that Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timmerman referred to the UK’s decision not to send an invitation to President Cristina Fernandez to the funeral of Margaret Thatcher as “yet another provocation” in the Falklands/Malvinas conflict.
  • The Bolivian government has announced that it will withdraw a reservation to the American Treaty on Pacific Settlement, also known as the Pact of Bogota, so that it can proceed with plans to bring its longstanding maritime border dispute with Chile to trial in the Hague.
  • The local government in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has banned public transit vans like the one in which an American tourist was assaulted and raped last month from tourist areas.
  • According to El Informador, a group of some 5,000 dissident teachers in the Mexican state of Guerrero blocked a major state highway yesterday before setting up a camp outside the state legislature in order to protest planned changes in the educational system.
  • The European Police Office (Europol) has released a statement warning that the Zeta and Sinaloa cartels, Mexico’s two most powerful criminal organizations, have extended their reach across the Atlantic, and have achieved increased access to the European cocaine market through connections in Nigeria.
  • Colombian Congressman Ivan Cepeda of the leftist Democratic Pole Party told reporters human rights organizations informed him that prisoners in five jails across Colombia have begun a mass hunger strike, in protest of prison conditions in the country. El Colombiano reports that Cepeda has scheduled a meeting later this month with the human rights committees of the ten jails across the country with the worst conditions.

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