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Venezuela is facing presidential elections on October. The race between Hugo Chavez and Henrique Capriles is close in the polls; who will win is still uncertain. These days, the biggest concern for the people of Venezuela is that if Capriles wins, will the losing current president Chavez step down peacefully from a position he has enjoyed for more than a decade, or will he resist and unleash a civil war?
President Chavez has accused Capriles of trying to provoke violence by campaigning in places where he knows Chavez has a lot of support. The accusations came after a march which Henrique Capriles did in La Vega, a poor district of Caracas, in which Capriles sympathizers got into a fight with Chavez supporters. The police intervened and Capriles was not allowed to finish the march.
In a military ceremony, President Chavez referred to Capriles recent actions and told the soldiers: “They are going to try to destabilize the country. I’ve been saying it and everybody should be alert.” Declarations like this are creating a very hostile environment while the country is just a few months away from the elections. Chavez insists that the incident which occurred in La Vega is evidence of Capriles destabilization plans, and the president added that Capriles plans should be neutralized.
Henrique Capriles has denied the accusations and stated: “I’m not walking Venezuela’s streets to fight with anybody.” So far the campaign has been peaceful, but there is a risk that it could turn violent in the final rounds. The opposition candidate knows that in order to win, he would need the support of the poor and the working-class so places such as La Vega are necessary campaign grounds for him.
Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington, expressed his fear that most of the country is exposed to, as he stated: “a risk that minor clashes between supporters of both camps could escalate and threaten social peace. The distrust is profound, and arms are plentiful.”
The elections are schedules for October 7 and Capriles campaign has been very intense. He has visited most of the country in his attempt to win over the population and Chavez out of the presidency, a position he has held since 1999. On the other hand because of his cancer treatment recovery, president Chavez has barely begun campaigning, but still, he has stated that he is sure he will defeat Capriles. He recently made a political rally in the Venezuelan state of Zulia where he claims he congregated hundreds of thousands of people, and said that Capriles efforts would be in vain.
Image Courtesy of Spanner Dan