16-D Races to Watch: Lara & Monagas

Flag_of_Lara_State.svgLara was the swing state that wasn’t in the last election, and even though Chavez narrowly won it, the result was encouraging news for the MUD and for the incumbent governor Henri Falcón.

Chavismo has put a lot of effort into taking my home state back, but putting a familiar face in the ballot hurts them here: their guy’s name is dirt out here.

Incumbent Governor Henri Falcon, candidate of the MUD for Lara
Lara Governor Henri Falcon, candidate of the MUD

Governor Falcon won four years ago under Chávez’s wing with the largest margin of victory of any state in the country. Now, he faces the most important election of his political carreer.

He has something to show for his time in office: big public works and civic participation in budget planning are all part of his record. On November 26th a campaign rally was attacked in West Barquisimeto, leaving six injured.

Former Governor Luis Reyes Reyes, candidate of PSUV-GPP for Lara
Former Governor Luis Reyes Reyes (2000-2008), candidate of the PSUV-GPP for Lara

Meanwhile, Chavista forces in Lara are rallying once again behind former Governor (and close associate of the comandante presidente) Luis Reyes Reyes. He served in the presidential cabinet and was elected National Assembly deputy in 2010.

Since early this year, he has led a parallel State governorship named Corpolara, lavishly funded to undermine Falcón’s leadership. There have been serious accusations about human rights violations during his term of office.

bandera_monagasLast but not least, there’s Monagas. This should be a safe Chavista state (it went red, very red on October 7th) but the Guarapiche oil spill in February prompted a political split between the Governor and the PSUV.

The current governor, José Gregorio “Gato” Briceño, is now running as an independent, but he recently started to court the MUD, which picked a different candidate in the primary.

Incumbent Monagas Governor Jose Gregorio "El gato" Briceño, independent candidate for re-election. He's supported by
Incumbent Monagas Governor Jose Gregorio “El Gato” Briceño, independent candidate for re-election. He’s supported by a dozen of small political parties.

“The cat” has faced a strong political siege by the Chavernment all this year. That has included his party MiGato, which wasn’t allowed on the ballot by the CNE. On December 16th, we will find out if this cat can land on its feet.

He thinks he can win without problem his third election in a row, even if the MUD still has its own candidate running.

In the last few days, several organizations who originally backed the MUD are now giving their full support to Briceño.

Soraya Hernandez, candidate of the MUD for Monagas.
Soraya Hernandez, candidate of the MUD for Monagas

The only female candidate of the MUD is running in Monagas. Soraya Hernandez won the 12-F primary, but her standing as opposition candidate was damaged by Briceño’s break-up from Chavismo and his popularity.

Negotiations between both went nowhere, and she insists that she’s the only candidate with the people’s support.

Even if formally the MUD leadership in Caracas still backs her, the situation is more complicated as some parties want to drop her and go with Briceño instead.

Yelitza Santaella, candidate of the PSUV-GPP for Monagas
Yelitza Santaella, candidate of the PSUV-GPP for Monagas. Former governor of Delta Amacuro (2000-2008)

Meanwhile, the circumstances forced the PSUV to find a new candidate quickly. After hinting the idea of sending native son Diosdado Cabello, the comandante presidente chose the former Governor of neighboring state Delta Amacuro Yelitza Santaella.

She has some knowledge of the State thanks to her previous job as head of the PSUV for the entire region. Her chances depend of the voting split between her rivals Briceño and Hernandez.


That’s it for the “16-D Races to Watch” series. I don’t have a prediction in most cases – I am not trying to be Nate Silver or even his drunken counterpart. The level of abstention could in the end decide some of the races. And the oncological realities on the ground throw a wrench into the entire proceedings.