Friday, March 9, 2012

Venezuela: ...Incumbent President Hugo Chavez’s re-election prospects are currently being challenged by Governor Henrique Capriles Randanski... and now must face the formidable competition represented by the attractive youthful governor who hails from the state of Miranda

The new man in Venezuela


by Lemi Tilahun
COHA Research Associate


Increasingly confident and adored opposition politicians see themselves as being able to effectively challenge the government’s pro-Chavez status quo. Incumbent President Hugo Chavez’s re-election prospects are currently being challenged by Governor Henrique Capriles Randanski and now must face the formidable competition represented by the attractive youthful governor who hails from the state of Miranda.

There are growing numbers of followers of the compelling and attractive Capriles. But whether he will be able to appeal to the citizenry to a sufficient extent in order to win over hundreds of thousands of devoted Chavez voters in next October’s presidential election, remains unclear. Up until to this point, there has been a deficit of appealing opposition candidates capable of effectively challenging the existing order.

Anti-Chavez opposition figures have gathered together to support Capriles in part due to his key victory in last week’s primaries, which indicates a potentially strong run in the general elections. While many Venezuelans are being energized by Capriles, such optimism could later lead to disappointments in October if Chavez’s predictable hotshot campaign is able to mobilize his electoral battle cry, especially with the tools and the crowds that Chavez has at his call.

Although Capriles is now charming the crowds across the country, it should be recalled that holding public office has its limitations; just look at leaders like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Robert Mugabe as well as Venezuela’s current president, who once had the very same mystifying appeal to young voters that Chavez displayed in 1998 when he hatched his current preeminence.

Some leaders may fail to deliver on promises that they’re now making, which could be the factor that puts them into power. For this reason, I believe that the Venezuelans should limit their expectations for change even if Governor Capriles is elected in October. President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation is like a shadow, any man can stand adversity, but to truly test a man’s character give him power.”

While it seems he is receiving large amount of attention, the presidential candidate and his indisputable charisma are sweeping people off their feet with triumphant promises and the silhouette he is now making regarding Venezuela’s future. Enough could be read in this early phase of the race that Capriles is running a plucky campaign but, at the end of the day, the numbers are against him, even with the win at the primaries.

Is the young governor worth the signature attention with which he is being adoringly rewarded? More importantly, some are now asking what makes him different from President Chavez or anyone else who has had the same effect on people in the past.

Some may argue that Capriles is a new combination of the young and the prepared, which Venezuela desperately needs to make a qualitative leap into the future. However, this is bound to rub off in a matter of time. At the end of the day, time will tell whether or not the opposition leader is someone who would meet the everyday needs of the Venezuelan people. Governor Capriles may be new and dazzling, but is playing the same game politicians of the past have played. They also showed the same promise, but ultimately failed to save the people on election day, without much meaningful impact.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, visit www.coha.org or email coha@coha.org

March 8, 2012

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