HAVANA TIMES — The campaign for the December 8th local elections in Venezuela kicked off on Saturday with caravans and a festive atmosphere. The government called on citizens to participate in the vote, while the opposition called for converting the elections into a plebiscite on the performance of President Nicolas Maduro, reported dpa news.
The elections for 350 mayors and more than 2,300 city council members were preceded by regional elections in December 2012 and presidential elections in April 2013, when Maduro was declared the winner by small margin over Henrique Capriles in the vote to choose the successor of the late President Hugo Chavez.
The opening of the new campaign took over the main streets of Caracas, Valencia and Maracaibo, the three major cities of the country where the ruling party and the opposition forces will face off.
The opposition, and its leader Capriles, urged Venezuelans to take the election as a plebiscite on the presidency of Maduro, who in seven months has unleashed a battle against inflation, food shortages and what he calls “an economic warfare against the people.”
The polls show a rise in the chances of the opposition candidates to maintain the city halls they currently possess and increase the number of mayors, but the ruling party candidates will battle all-out and have the support of Maduro.
The governing party mayor of the city of Caracas, Jorge Rodriguez, seeks reelection against opposition deputy Ismael Garcia. Also in the race for Caracas metropolitan mayor, which manages five municipalities, opposition member Antonio Ledezma seeks reelection against the former Minister of Communication and Information, Ernesto Villegas .
Maduro said the start of the campaign once again shows that Venezuela demonstrates its democracy with votes, because this election will be the twentieth in 14 years.
“Venezuela, a living democracy,” he said on his Twitter account and urged the candidates to make a “high educational campaign , with plans to build true community and vote for the country and peace.”
He recalled that December 8 was recently declared by the government as the day of loyalty and love for Hugo Chavez, remembering that day a year before when he gave his last speech.
For his part, Capriles called on voters to pass “the bill” to the government on December 8 for “the inflation, shortages, corruption and insecurity.”
“It’s not only about electing mayors and council members, this goes far beyond,” he said in a caravan in eastern Anzoategui.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Caracas said at the start of the campaign that the opposition, which he said “prefers the darkness and attacking the people, aspiring that by now all of Caracas would be plunged into darkness and sadness with its ‘total collapse’ plan, as Maduro called an alleged plot against his government opposition.
“The people on the street are happy buying at fair prices,” he said when commenting on the government’s fight against inflation, which forced store owners to halve the prices of electrical appliances.
Opposition lawmaker Maria Corina Machado said Maduro “decreed the end of inflation.” Here, “he decrees ample product supplies and even happiness, but the only decree that means anything is when the voters tell this incompetent government that the nightmare is over,” she said.
Cuba is highly dependent on an exchange agreement with Venezuela whereby the island receives around 100,000 barrels a day of oil and in return provides tens of thousands of doctors, educators and sports trainers for Venezuelan social programs.