Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Election campaign kicks off in Venezuela

03 April 2013, 16:31

Maracaibo - The presidential campaign to replace Venezuela's Hugo Chavez formally kicked off on Tuesday, with his chosen successor vowing to carry on the deceased leader's socialist revolution.

As acting President Nicolas Maduro visited Chavez's hometown of Sabaneta in the west, opposition leader Henrique Capriles was heading to the eastern state of Monagas at the start of the short campaign ahead of the 14 April vote.

"The bus that is this fatherland has just one driver, and I am your man," insisted Maduro, playing up his humble past as a bus driver and union organiser.

Both candidates have vowed to canvass all 23 states over 10 days in what is shaping up to be an emotionally-charged election to replace the charismatic Chavez, who led the oil-rich nation for 14 years.

The rivals have traded barbs for weeks since Chavez lost his battle with cancer on 5 March, leaving the nation split between supporters of his self-styled socialist revolution and opponents hoping for change.

Double-digit lead

Maduro, aged 50, a former foreign minister and vice president, was joined by hundreds of supporters, officials and Chavez relatives as he visited the late president's family home, now a local headquarters of the ruling PSUV party.

"We will fulfil the will and legacy of president Chavez," an emotional Maduro said, describing the house as the "cradle of the Bolivarian revolution."

"We feel Comandante Chavez within us, like a father. We come to make a commitment with this land that saw his birth, pledge to never fail him and build socialism to its fullest development," he said.

Maduro has a double-digit lead over Capriles in opinion polls, thanks in part to a wave of sympathy after the death of Chavez, who was immensely popular among the poor and other beneficiaries of his oil-funded social programs.

Chavez brought free health care and subsidised food programs to poor areas while reducing poverty, but the opposition points to Venezuela's high murder rate, soaring inflation and shortages of basic goods.

"We are all Chavez; and now we are all Nicolas," said computer technician Francisco Martinez, echoing slogans commonly heard on state television.

Weakened opposition

Capriles, the 40-year-old governor of Miranda state, gave Chavez his biggest ever electoral challenge in October elections but still lost by 11 points.

While Maduro was on Chavez's home turf, Capriles rallied thousands of supporters to formally launch his campaign in the eastern city of Maturin.

"There is hope here. There is faith here. And there is also going to have to be bravery here," Capriles said under a scorching sun amid a sea of red, blue and gold flags.

"I am going to give it all ... to move this country forward, in the coming days and in the coming years. But I want you to do the same along with me," Capriles urged.

Chavez was unable to attend his 10 January swearing-in ceremony because he was receiving treatment in Cuba at the time, part of a nearly two-year battle with cancer that saw him shuttle back and forth to Havana.

The opposition was further weakened after a big defeat in regional elections in December that left it with only three of 23 gubernatorial seats.

Maduro “not prepared to be president”

Even in death, Chavez is casting a huge shadow over Venezuela, with a myth building around his larger-than-life personality. This could benefit Maduro, who constantly lionises his mentor.

Maduro has compared Chavez to South American independence hero Simon Bolivar, referring to him on Tuesday as a "prophet," a "giant of the fatherland" and the "supreme commander."

Adopting Chavez's man-of-the-people style, the acting president hugged and greeted thousands of supporters, rode a Jeep in the scarlet red of "Chavismo" and crooned along to local music known as llano.

Many of his supporters believe Capriles, a governor and attorney, is better trained and more up to the executive post than Maduro.

"Even if Chavez said people should vote for Maduro, he is not prepared to be president. In his speeches all he talks about is Chavez. He has no policies," said Ana Vazquez, aged 78, who rallied along with her daughter and granddaughter.

The National Electoral Council, which the opposition accuses of being biased towards the ruling party, has called for a peaceful campaign in the politically polarised nation.

"This campaign will take place in a delicate emotional context, so we urge all parties to ... avoid expressions that could strain the electoral environment," said council president Tibisay Lucena.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
DP Ruto accuses Raila of selling ...

DP Wiliam Ruto has castigated Raila Odinga for seeking western support to fund his 2017 election bid. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Peter Kenneth announces Uhuru 201...

Peter Kenneth has announced that he will support President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2017 elections. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilon Ochieng
Labour Party to dump both Jubilee...

The Labour Party of Kenya is likely to avoid supportoing both the CORD and Jubilee factions during the 2017 General Elections. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Ukambani MP quits Jubilee, to run...

An Ukambani MP has quit the Jubilee Party, citing voter apathy as his reason behind leaving the ruling coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Government launches probe into Po...

The government has launched an inquiry into the circumstances that could have led to two National Police Service helicopter accidents in August and September this year. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilwon Ochieng
Deputy Governor's ally found with...

The EACC has recovered KES 2 million in fake currency from a close ally of Deputy Governor for Tharaka Nithi Eliud Mati. Read more...