Mix of hope, skepticism ahead of election re-do in Venezuelan state

Barinas, Venezuela, Jan 7 (EFE).- Residents in Barinas, the home state of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, are divided as to whether recent improvements in their lives – such as shorter lines at gas stations – will endure beyond the upcoming special gubernatorial election.

Sunday’s vote was necessitated by a Supreme Court decision invalidating the original Nov. 21 ballot before the tabulation was complete.

Opposition challenger Freddy Superlano had a lead of less than 1 percent over incumbent Argenis Chavez, Hugo’s brother, when the count was halted.

The court ordered a repeat election after concluding that Superlano should have been disqualified pursuant to an administrative sanction arising from his 2015-2020 tenure as a legislator.

Argenis, the third member of the Chavez family to occupy the governor’s office in Barinas since 1998, decided to abandon his bid for another term and the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) chose former Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza as the new candidate.

Besides opting for a different standard-bearer, the PSUV has spared no effort to deliver tangible improvements with the aim of averting the embarrassment of losing power in the home of the party’s founder.

Over the last month, the typical wait to fuel-up at a gas station in Barinas has shrunk from up to 48 hours to a maximum of two.

Though happy about the change, 52-year-old Jose Arroyo attributes it solely to President Nicolas Maduro’s desire to ensure victory for Arreaza.

“They are putting in the gasoline now because it’s in the government’s interest, but I expect that after a few days we will go back to the same situation, it will be worse,” he told Efe.

Candida Peña, a shopkeeper of 65, said that while authorities have improved the distribution of drinking water, not every area is seeing the benefit.

Unlike Arroyo, however, she was hopeful that the alleviation of fuel shortages will be permanent.

“Many times we had to spend the night, line up, endure hunger, thirst and necessities to acquire gasoline,” she said.

Here in Barinas city and throughout the state, one can’t go very far without seeing billboards and posters bearing the faces of Arreaza and renegade opposition candidate Claudio Fermin.

Also ubiquitous are tanker trucks belonging to state oil company Pdvsa and vehicles emblazoned with “People’s Guard” that deliver water.

But there is little sign of the campaign of the person who replaced Superlano as the candidate of the MUD opposition alliance, Sergio Garrido.

National Electoral Council (CNE) member Tania D’Amelio said Friday that all of the polling places in Barinas were ready for the election.

Another CNE official, Roberto Picon, said that the results “should be released in a timely manner, without delays or obstructions” thanks to a “considerable addition” to the system’s data-transmission capabilities. EFE sc/dr

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