By Ron Gonzalez
La Guaira, Venezuela, Nov 30 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of people defied social-distancing measures over the weekend and gathered on a narrow street in this port city outside Caracas to hear “Nicolasito,” the son of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and a candidate in that nation’s Dec. 6 legislative elections.
Amid pushing and shoving, that group of supporters of Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) listened on Sunday in the suffocating heat of downtown La Guaira as the 30-year-old Nicolas Maduro Guerra made a series of political pledges.
Those promises include a law to make that city and the surrounding region – home to several resorts popular with Caracas residents – a hub for economic development.
But he also lowered expectations among those in attendance, many of whom see in him the best chance for the approval of federally approved public-works projects in a region that has not been immune from Venezuela’s long-standing economic crisis.
“I’m not going to tell you that we’re going to wave a magic wand on Dec. 7 and solve Venezuela’s problems,” he said, though adding that the PSUV – a party founded by the late Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s mentor and predecessor – has a plan to lift the country out of its economic doldrums.
Venezuela’s leftist government blames the ongoing crisis on the severe sanctions the United States has imposed on the nation and its lifeblood oil industry. Washington and its allies – who are seeking regime change – say the problems are a result of Maduro’s socialist economic policies.
Due to the pandemic, political rallies have been infrequent in the lead-up to this year’s elections to renew the unicameral National Assembly, which is nominally controlled by the opposition but has been effectively toothless since the creation in 2017 of the pro-Maduro National Constituent Assembly.
In addition to making speeches, “Nicolasito” also visited poor neighborhoods and attended a Mass on Sunday.
In Ciudad Chavez, a community where nearly 4,000 families struggle to navigate the economic crisis and make ends meet, the candidate laid the cornerstone for a monument in honor of Jose Gregorio Hernandez, a doctor who treated the poor during the 1918 flu pandemic and was recently beatified by the Vatican.
He did so in the name of the government, even though he is not a public official.
Late Sunday afternoon, dozens of people approached “Nicolasito” to hand-deliver petition letters, known in Venezuelan politics as “papelitos.”
“Who’s taking the petitions?” a middle-aged woman asked with desperation in her voice.
Nearby, another woman looked on with satisfaction at the big turnout for “Nicolasito” in Ciudad Chavez, where homes have been provided to many low-income people at low cost or even free of charge under a national government program.
“I’m 100 percent with ‘Madurito’ – another nickname for the president’s son – on bended knee,” retiree Odalys Morales told Efe.
The 58-year-old woman recalled that until recently she had been living in a rundown hillside favela in La Guaira and feared her roof would cave in while she was sleeping.
“I prayed to God. I asked Him to help me get down from that hill alive, and here I am. This is a blessing despite its imperfections,” she said, referring to the frequent breakdowns in public services in that area.
Later, Maduro Guerra spoke with Efe and said it doesn’t bother him to be referred to as “Nicolasito” or “Madurito” and that he never imagined he would become a politician.
“Politics took an interest in me. Life led me to politics (because) I was always close to my father. Wherever he went, I’d go with him,” he said.
Before entering the political arena, Nicolasito earned a degree as a “social economist,” a program designed by Chavez himself in a bid to make people – as opposed to numbers – the focal point of that field of study.