Venezuela as a hot-button campaign issue… just not in Venezuela

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On May 4th, Panama will go to the polls to elect a new president and all 71 members of its single-chamber National Assembly. While the electoral campaign there has mostly focused on domestic issues such as safety, education, and the expansion of the canal, the case of Venezuela has also become somewhat of an issue.

Last month, Nicolas Maduro announced the diplomatic break-up between both countries, after the government of current Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli asked the OAS to get involved in Venezuela. This included giving Maria Corina Machado a seat in the Permanent Council as part of its delegation. The break-up is also linked to the large debt Venezuela has with Panama, concerning the huge purchase of imports from that country.

At the same time, Maduro praised the former Panamanian strongman General Omar Torrijos, to the point of naming a brand new apartment complex in Caracas after him. In Panama, these gestures have been seen by some as an endorsement of Juan Carlos Navarro, the presidential candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), founded by Torrijos in 1979. Both Mr. Navarro and members of the PRD have distanced themselves from Maduro.

Still, Democratic Change (CD), the party currently in power, has taken advantage of Maduro’s admiration for Torrijos. President Martinelli himself has accused Venezuela of financing the PRD’s campaign, while CD’s candidate (and current frontrunner in the polls) José Domingo Arias has used the current wave of shortages in a TV ad (seen above) where he rejects price controls in general. He also the case of Argentina in a different ad.

But Panama isn’t the only case where Venezuela has been mentioned in an eleciton campaign: During the run-off for El Salvador’s presidency, opposition party ARENA used recent protests as an argument against the FMLN and its candidate, Vice-President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, for his open support of the the Venezuelan model. Sánchez Cerén won by a narrow margin, but ARENA’s Norman Quijano has refused to concede the election.

Venezuela has even made its way onto the U.S. midterm elections. Florida Governor Rick Scott (who’s running for re-election next November) recently spoke about the Venezuelan situation. Next month, our neighbor Colombia will vote for President, and it will be interesting to see if the incumbent Juan Manuel Santos or his rival Óscar Iván Zuluaga (of Democratic Center, Alvaro Uribe’s new party) include our country in their campaign messages. Later, on October 6th, other allies such as Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Brazil’s Dilma Rouseff will try to get re-elected (Uruguay’s Jose Mujica can’t run but former President Tabare Vasquez will do it in his place, for an election slated for October 25th).

1 COMMENT

  1. Goes back a long way. I think one of the reasons Felipe Calderon won the Mexican elections in 2006 was the widespread accusation that AMLO’s campaign was supported by Chavez. To my knowledge there is no evidence of this, but it was enough to tip a close race.

    • Chavez’s support sunk Ollanta Humala’s first run to the presidency of Peru in 2006. If I remember correctly, it allowed Alan Garcia Perez, the worse government in Latin America, according to the Economist of London, to get a second term.

      So, it’s something to ponder, Chavez support made everyone run to a known bad and corrupt politician. Thank God that the democracy in Peru has a distribution of power.

      • Humala has kept the moderate line (or at least it seems so). Which is better than expected, given that the general attitude on his election, including declarations from Mario Vargas Llosa was: “Well, is either him or the daughter of Alberto Fujimori”.

  2. I see the day when the word “Chavista” will be used as an insult even by the French extreme left (I know, that’s in the future!)

    “Toi, tu es un Chaviste!”
    “Moi? Non, c’est toi le Chaviste!”
    “Ta mère est une Chaviste”
    etc

  3. “it allowed Alan Garcia Perez, the worse government in Latin America, according to the Economist of London”

    Achtung!

    Don’t forget that there are two Alan Garcias. The naive socialist who bankrupt Peru and the bright reformer who forged the foundations allowing Peru to grow 5-6% every year. The Economist magazine had certainly criticized the former, but not the latter.

    • We have agreement on Alan Garcia I.

      However preceding Alan Garcia II there was Alberto Fujimori and Alejandro Toledo which in fact ‘forged the foundation’ for Peruvian growth, plus the boom in commodities. Garcia, did nothing to mess what was going quite well. He is no reformer, he just did break things.

  4. Re: Colombia. Yup, Uribe and his party have been accusing Santos of being friendly with “Castrochavismo” and trying to give up the country to them. I mean, I have actually met people who think that Santos is a disguised communist… (yes, really!!). It all comes down to a strategy of tying the Havana peace dialogues (castro-) with the situation in Venezuela (-chavismo) to make people think that if an agreement is reached we will be queing for toilet paper and making statues for Timochenko and Chávez in a year’s time.

    Historically the big enemy of the Colombian democratic left has been the guerrilla, any sort of leftist movement would be countered by saying they were guerrilleros in disguise (and in the case of Unión Patriótica in the 80s this meant that many, many, many of their leaders were killed). Now it’s chavismo. Venezuela has become “El Coco” of right-wing Colombian politicians. Now they’re even trying it on Santos.

    Of course, they are all convinced that the Venezuelan opposition is a homogeneous block of right wing conservatives, an idea that is sold by both chavismo and Uribe for their own benefits, funnily enough.

    And a bonus: JJ Rendón just arrived in Colombia for the Santos campaign. We’ll see what he comes up with… (since I’m talking about Colombia and not Venezuela I get to dislike him in this comment). There’s rumours that it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Santos does not make it to the second round (Which would be Peñalosa-Zuluaga). It’s unlikely since Santos has huge party machineries to bring out the vote, especially in the Caribbean coast, but we’ll have to see the polls coming out tomorrow. My guess is that it’s a 3-horse race (Santos, Zuluaga, Peñalosa) to see which two go to the runoff.

    • Another ad that goes in the same line as those posted by GEHA, from Óscar Iván Zuluaga. This is the correct one (feel free to delete the other comment or to just put the video in the main body):

    • Another ad that goes in the same line as those posted by GEHA, from Óscar Iván Zuluaga. This is the correct one (feel free to delete the other comment or to just put the video in the main body, I think the comment system is being annoying, sorry if there are duplicates!)

  5. It is such an obvious object lesson, “In this direction lies ruin.” When the final extent of the economic and human disaster of Chavismo becomes fully apparent, it may leave Latin America vaccinated against leftist populism for at least a couple of generations.

    • That’s just not possible, Latin America will forever be guerilla country.
      Specially in Venezuela, where most of the youth (15-29) believes in revolution,peace,love and Che was a hero and a pacifist. Of course,anyone else is just a fascist who is not even human.

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