Capriles vs Chavez: What's at Stake in Venezuela's Presidential Election

One major concern for Venezuela's opposition as of late has been the decision by the Venezuelan congress to divert resources from state governments -- which are sometimes controlled by politicians opposed to Chávez — towards socialist communes, that are officially independent, but rely on the government for funds and for their legal status. A law passed in 2010, says these communes will have courts with jurisdiction over local residents, and that their objective will be to "regulate social and community life [and] guarantee public order, social harmony and the primacy of collective over individual interests."

Chávez supporters argue that the communes are merely an effort to expand democracy, and get people directly involved in government. The president's supporters also note that the indefinite re-election law was voted on through a national referendum, and that other changes in Venezuelan democracy have been approved legitimately, by that country's congress.

The government plans to register 3,000 communes around the country if Chávez is elected for another term, while the Capriles campaign says that it would stop this scheme and instead focus on generating family owned small and medium enterprises.

Freedom of Speech

During Chávez's most recent term in office, 34 radio stations had to go off the air, as well as a major TV channel that was critical of the Chávez administration. A media law amended in 2010 gives the government greater regulatory power over media and sanctions journalists who transmit messages that "foment anxiety in the public."

Opposition groups say the government is on a quest to silence critical voices such as RCTV, the TV channel that was denied a new broadcasting license in 2007 and pushed off cable TV in 2010 for not complying with laws that obliged the channel to broadcast government events.

The government argues that RCTV and other media outlets were not shut down because of their politics, but because they broke tax laws, communications laws, or acquired their broadcasting licenses through illegal means. It claims that its media laws protect children, and claims that it has democratized media ownership in that country by backing new community run media outlets.

Henrique Capriles recently said in a Facebook forum, that he would allow RCTV back on the air if he wins the election, claiming that power should be used "to open opportunities," and not to "shut down doors."

Chávez's government proposal for the years 2013 to 2019, says that media outlets should be strengthened, so that they can serve as an educational instrument, that will facilitate the transition to socialism.

Economic Liberty

Chávez came to power in 1998, promising to help Venezuela's poor to get their fair share of the country's vast oil wealth. He has fulfilled this promise by cranking up government investment in medical programs and pensions for senior citizens. He has raised salaries by decree, set up literacy programs and public housing schemes.

But Venezuela has some serious economic issues. Its large influx of oil dollars means that the country is naturally prone to high inflation rates. Big government spending programs have made inflation worse according to local analysts, even though the government has managed to slightly curb the country's inflation rate, -- a whopping 27 percent in 2011 -- by importing food and selling it for cheap prices at government run stores.

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