CARACAS – Backed by a fresher and stronger speech than that of last year and by many disappointed supporters from popular leftist late President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski is surging in polls leading up to the presidential election to be held on Sunday. Juan José Rendón, a renowned electoral strategist who has successfully run several election victories throughout Latin America -- including that by Santos in Colombia -- was interviewed on the Chavista-Opposition election by newspaper OGlobo in an interview last Saturday.Q: Is this the hardest presidential campaign for the opposition since 2012?
This is the most atypical campaign in the history of Venezuela. It’s a standoff between David and Goliath. It’s not just another dispute against a candidate, but it certainly is one against a regime that has overtaken all the power.Q: Do you think there is an abuse of power in Venezuela?
Without a doubt! But these excesses are backfiring on the current government. Staunch supporters from Hugo Chávez themselves are rejecting these maneuvers as well as all the lies about Chávez’s health being told at present and in the past. The interim government has said about 20 different and simultaneous versions on the same fact and that caused a lot of annoyance. People know that the campaign in October of last year represented an effort that Chávez himself was not able to make. Those people feel, today, that Nicolás Maduro is not Chávez. Chávez was a charismatic leader and charisma is not inherited. The candidate from the Government has no capacity of leadership, of ruling a country, of anything compared with Chávez, who was a great political strategist.Q: Having a new electoral contender, Capriles Radonski hardened his speech, didn’t he?
People change. What we see today is a person who evolved in a personal political process. The only chance the opposition’s got is to prove it represents a possibility of change in Venezuela. Maduro represents the worst part of an eventual continuity, of a circle that always got complaints from Chávez due to their incompetence to resolve the existing problems in the country. It wasn’t Chávez’s fault before, it was his collaborators’. Now the candidate became one of his collaborators, therefore this has completely changed. The presidential campaign is quite short, but people are fully paying attention as messages from the candidates are getting to them in a much more intensified way.Q: Is the access to the media a disadvantage for Capriles Radonski?
It’s just like the Judo martial art. The strength of a candidate must, in this case, be used as a weapon against him. People are rejecting the abuses from Maduro. They were seeing red after a week of funeral ceremonies in a battered country suffering from high inflation rates, food shortages and dozens of other problems.
So many speeches on endless TV broadcasts get people angry, too. At some point this may become an edge, but in the end turns out a disadvantage because the abuse becomes evident. The anguish of not having enough money to buy food cannot be quenched with more speeches from Maduro. The more he talks, the more he sinks the Government. For instance, that story on Chávez turning up in the shape of a little bird. Something outrageous I would say.Q: Does Capriles have real chances to win this time?
Definitely! At present we have roughly 29% of undecided people who don’t know who to vote for, all of them former supporters from Chávez that don’t like Maduro at all. So, I think to myself: What’s the trend here? To me it is that former chavistas who don’t feel identified themselves with Maduro’s candidacy blame him for being one of the incompetent ministers from Chávez’s government, a man who abused from the deceased leader and now abusing from the power he’s got. Capriles Radonski is already being seen as someone who promises to make important moves in the country.Q: But these disappointed Chávez supporters may hold their votes and not give them to Capriles Radonski, right?
Let’s just say, being conservative enough, that a third of the undecided people will lean towards Capriles Radonski. This is enough. The task of the opposition is to talk people out that the country cannot go on like this. Also that social programs will continue – but with modifications in their inefficient policies –, and the sale of weapons to allied countries as well as the money given away to partners such as Cuba have to end. With all this money, many social problems would be resolved. Good movies always have surprising ends.
For example, the trend at the last presidential election in Colombia suddenly changed in favor of Juan Manuel Santos, the current president of that country, over the last week. I strongly believe this is going to be a surprising election as well. Atypical elections come with atypical results. This is a breathtaking campaign where Capriles Radonski is reencountering with those who got excited with his campaign back in 2012. Every single place Maduro visits, he suspends classes at schools and forces workers from the public sector to actively participate in his events. It’s easier for Capriles Radonski to rekindle feelings from the people than for Maduro to create them out of nowhere.