On April 14th Henrique Capriles will challenge for Venezuelan presidency for the second time in six months. This time however Chavez is dead, but he still very much remains the focus.
His anointed successor, acting President Nicolas Maduro, has been trying to follow the formula that worked so well for Chavez – US-bashing, conspiracy spreading, and hate-filled rhetoric. Such a tactic has only served to reveal Maduro’s principle faults however; he is a poor orator, and his recent accusations against the USA have been beyond absurd, claiming Chavez’s cancer was implanted and that there is a right-wing government plot to assassinate his opponent, Capriles. His current stint as acting President has come under fire for his poor handling of government finances as well, which is no surprise when one considers that Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, has been devalued by 32% this year alone.
Capriles offers a much different, and more attractive, political direction, one that has some substance to it. He has based his new campaign around four key points, the first of which is a return to the rule of law; no one is above the law. His second point revolves around the removal of the incendiary rhetoric which plagues Venezuelan political life; homophobic and anti-semitic remarks were commonplace during the last election, with it mostly directed at Capriles. He seeks to bring an end to the corruption that impacts every level of government, starting with a complete overhaul of the state-run oil company, PDVSA. Finally, Capriles wishes to make radical changes to how the nation approaches it’s international relations, turning away from the likes of Cuba, and building up relations with more democratic nations, including Brazil, Chile and the USA.
Despite his unimpressive demeanor, poor leadership skills and wild accusations, Maduro still holds a double-digit lead in the polls over Capriles. It will be difficult to turn that around, but where Maduro struggles in terms of policy and substance, Capriles excels. Capriles is the definitely the underdog in this election, but luckily everyone loves an underdog.