Entrevista en Wall Street Journal

Foto: European Pressphoto Agency

Chávez Foe Tries to Outdo Leader’s Populist Message

Por Ezequiel Miaya y Kejal Vyas

CARACAS—The leading contender to face President Hugo Chávez in next year’s election has aimed a populist message squarely at the Venezuelan leader’s base of support, the country’s many poor, with a promise to alleviate poverty while spurring economic growth.

By borrowing from Mr. Chávez’s own playbook, political analysts say Henrique Capriles Radonski, the 39-year-old governor of the politically and economically crucial state of Miranda, represents the most formidable threat the leftist leader has yet faced.

“Chávez is not the owner of social issues,” Mr. Capriles said during a recent interview. “How can I not talk about poverty?”

Many in the South American nation seem to be listening, as Venezuelans grow critical of the country’s disappointing economic growth, soaring inflation and rampant crime. The president also faced new corruption allegations by opposition congressmen who charged Wednesday that billions of dollars China sends in a loans-for-oil deals violate the constitution. The government declined to respond to the allegations Wednesday.

With the general election scheduled for October 2012, a recent Datanalisis poll shows Mr. Capriles and Mr. Chávez running neck and neck in a two-man race.

“Chávez has never faced the kind of electoral fear that he is facing now,” said Javier Corrales, a political scientist and Venezuela expert at Amherst College. “Between 2004 and 2008, Chávez was unrivaled but now we have an opposition that is better able to challenge the government.”

. Capriles, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, was a political wunderkind who rose to a leadership position in the Venezuelan parliament in his 20s. The lawyer from a privileged background who has studied in Europe and in New York was elected mayor in 2000 of the municipality Baruta, part of greater Caracas. Eight years later, he stunned a powerful Chávez-backed opponent to win the governor’s seat in Miranda, the second-most populous state.

His success has led to clashes with Mr. Chávez. After his election as governor, Mr. Chávez stripped Mr. Capriles of some official duties and seized several state agencies to improve services, the president said. Capriles backers said the move was intended to punish the upstart.

In another fight with the Chavez administration, the state security agency held Mr. Capriles for four months while he was mayor, following accusations he had instigated a riot at the Cuban embassy during the unrest of the failed 2002 coup attempt against Mr. Chavez. Mr. Capriles denied the charges, and international human-rights advocates called him a political prisoner. He was eventually acquitted.

Though Mr. Chávez rarely mentions Mr. Capriles by name, Venezuelan state media attacks the governor as being a right-wing elitist aligned with U.S. interests. Mr. Capriles’s family owns one of the largest chains of movie theaters in the country and his own critics say his meteoric political rise owes to family connections.

Before facing Mr. Chávez in the general election, Mr. Capriles must first beat out several candidates from the country’s various opposition parties in a primary election set for February. Local polling group Datanalisis showed Mr. Capriles leading the field with 40% support.

Many poor Venezuelans have begun to sour on Mr. Chávez’s statist policies. Polls have noted large numbers of undecided voters. Still, taking on Mr. Chávez remains a tall order. The former army officer enjoys ubiquitous state-media coverage and access to billions of dollars in discretionary funds. The leader recently declared himself cancer-free after a months-long battle with the illness, and continues to hold a 53% personal approval rating, according to Datanalisis.

Mr. Capriles avoids the subject of Mr. Chávez’s somewhat secretive bout with cancer. “That’s not my problem,” he said. “I’m not a doctor or the doctor of the president. What I do believe is that it is a topic that should be made public.”

Mr. Capriles said he sees a leadership model in Brazil’s first working-class president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The ex-Brazilian leader began well-regarded social-welfare programs while adopting orthodox economic policies that have helped sustain Brazil’s robust economy.

Mr. Capriles modeled a program to counter hunger in Miranda state on the Brazilian leader’s original, and even used the same name: “Zero Hunger.” It is the centerpiece of Mr. Capriles’s campaign platform, and includes food for needy families, as well as well as housing, education and health services, while requiring participants to enroll in a job-training component. The program has provided assistance to 2,500 families in Miranda, according to the presidential hopeful’s website.

“We are not just providing handouts,” Mr. Capriles said. He added that he wouldn’t eliminate the Chavez administration’s various health, education and subsidized food programs, but would seek to improve them.

On the flip side, Mr. Capriles said, “we have the largest crude reserves in the world. There is gas. There are minerals. There are resources to plant all the food production we need. There is potential for tourism, and gold. But what we also have is political conflict from the government that won’t let any of these things advance.”Mr. Capriles called Mr. Chávez’s economic policies a failure and said he would reverse the aggressive expansion of state controls, capital flight, dependency on imports and lack of government transparency that have resulted.

“This government has taken control of practically the entire economy,” Mr. Capriles said. “I don’t believe in that model”.

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9 pensamientos en “Entrevista en Wall Street Journal

  1. Joraisy Aguero

    I lovethis part “we are not just providing hand outs”, I mean Chavez can talk the talk, but can he walk the walk?. Everyone loves you and supports you Henrique, like Obama’s motto “Yes, I am” we can say “Yes you are” and with you as our president we can go to distance God Bless You!! A huge Hug

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  2. Alberto

    Hay un tema muy sensible en la política venezolana opositora que es en lo concerniente a los despedidos de PDVSA en el Paro petrolero 2002-2003. Durante los 13 años del gobierno de Chávez la oposicion ha tenido un discurso radical y extremista y ha solicitado en más de una vez el reenganche de los botados de PDVSA y el despido de los trabajadores actuales. Creo que en esa línea han ido todos los candidatos. Sin embargo, es la primera vez que un candidato opositor tiene un discurso mas suave y ha tratado de acercarse al pueblo chavista. PDVSA posee actualmente casi 100.000 empleados los cuales “temen” perder sus puestos de trabajo de llegar a ganar la oposición y ser sustituidos por los 20.000 ex-trabajadores botados durante el paro. Todos estos temas “reavivan” el conflicto y la polarización en el país.

    Particularmente yo considero que esa polarización debe irse dejando a un lado. Los actuales trabajadores de PDVSA tienen derechos pues han estado allí durante casi 10 años por lo tanto sería bueno que tu le garantices a esos trabajadores que de llenar a ganar las presidenciales no habrá conflicto y esos puestos serán respetados.

    Venezuela no necesita un gobierno que se dedique a tomar represalias y realizar actos de venganza por hechos pasados. Entonces estimado Capriles creo que deberías pronunciarte sobre esto para aplcar el “miedo” de muchos trabajadores petroleros quienes son envenenados constantemente y atemorizados pintándoseles escenarios catastróficos, despidos masivos, venganzas, etc. de llegar a ganar la oposición.

    Eso no es lo que Venezuela necesita en este momento. Necesitamos Unidad y Progreso …!!!

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    1. henriquecapriles Autor de la entrada

      Buenas tardes, Alberto. Necesitamos un país donde se gobierne para todos por igual, sin importar el color político, sin rencores. Así llegaremos a la Venezuela del Progreso que nos merecemos los venezolanos. Un saludo.

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  3. Rodolfo Mena Jr.

    My beloved baby sister has followed your political and managerial path for a long time. She admires you and trusts that you are qualified to lead a tired people to a new order of ideas where unity prevails in reaching common goals. A future in which our leaders, unselfishly, and with the most altruistic attitude follow the triumphant footsteps of stable and successful communities. She thinks that you are prepared to change the popular filling of entitlement that ails the less fortunate sector of our society to a more fair hard working collective conscience. She says you got what it takes to guide Venezuela to the development of a state of Economic Self-reliance as well as social and political harmony. She is part of the bast majority of young professionals stripped of one of the most basic human necessities as is the necessity of fulfilling their life purpose. My sister is the most perfect example of sacrifice, guts and determination. I respect her and love her for it. So when she asked me to check you out, I took the task in the most serious and hopeful way. I’m pleased to report that so far so good. Best of lucks.

    Looking forward to witness a good fight.

    Best regards.

    RM

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  4. angelica

    HOLA, COMO ESTAS TUVE LA OPORTUNIDAD DE CONOCERTE EN PERSONA CUANDO ESTABAS EMPEZANDO COMO ALCALDE, Y CON LOS OJOS CERRADOS VOTE POR TI, Y QUE EMOCION CUANDO SUPE QUE QUEDASTES PARA LAS ELECCIONES PRESIDENCIALES, UN CONSEJO GRAN AMIGO, CUIDATE MUCHO, CUIDA TUS ESPALDAS, ENCOMIENDATE A NUESTRO DIOS TODOPODEROSO, YO TE TENGO EN MIS ORACIONES DE LA DIVINA MISERICORDIA PARA QUE TE CUIDE Y TRIUNFES, EL BIEN SIEMPRE VENCERA EL MAL, Y TU ERES ESPECIAL, AMIGO, GRACIAS POR DARNOS DE NUEVO LA ESPERANZA PERDIDA, LA LUZ QUE NECESITAMOS VER PARA ESTE PAIS CUENTA CONMIGO INCONDICIONALMENTE, TE QUIERO MUCHO, Y TU EQUIPO FABULOSO, NO SOY POLITICA PARA NADA, PERO CONTIGO ES CLASE APARTE, ¡A TRIUNFAR, CAPRILES!

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