Opposition candidate wins governor’s race in Chavez stronghold

Caracas, Jan 10 (EFE).- Venezuelan opposition politician Sergio Garrido on Monday was officially declared the winner of the gubernatorial race in Barinas, the home state of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

At a simple public event, Garrido – with the Mesa de la Unidad Democratics (MUD) opposition group – smiled wearing a cap with the colors of the Venezuelan flag as he received the official certification for winning the election held on Sunday.

The officials tasked with confirming his election win were with the National Election Council (CNE) in the state that has been governed since 1998 by relatives of Chavez, who died in 2013.

Garrido obtained 172,497 votes, or 55.36 percent, to Jorge Arreaza’s 128,583 (41.27 percent). Arreaza, with the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), had served from 2017-2021 as Venezuela’s foreign minister, after which he was named Industry and National Production minister after being replaced by Felix Plasencia.

Despite the fact that Barinas seemed to be an unassailable bastion of Chavismo for the opposition, the tables were turned last Nov. 21 when the gubernatorial election vote count was under way and then-opposition candidate Freddy Superlano was leading – by a much smaller margin than Garrido’s, less than 1 percent – the then-PSUV candidate, Argenis Chavez, Hugo’s brother.

The Venezuelan Supreme Court nullified the election result, however, and ordered the balloting to be redone after determining that Superlano should have been disqualified pursuant to an administrative sanction arising from his 2015-2020 tenure as a legislator.

After being declared the winner, Garrido said that he expects the Venezuelan government to keep its word and not name alternative officials to usurp some of the functions and powers of the governor.

“We expect … that they will keep their word not to name a protector in any state, but if that does occur they must understand that the Barinas public doesn’t want that, they want their legitimate governor elected by the people,” Garrido told reporters.

On June 28, President Nicolas Maduro promised to eliminate, after regional and local elections, the parallel entity in states governed by the opposition, which he himself had dubbed a “protectorate,” and the officials for which he named at his discretion, authorizing them to undertake the responsibilities and oversee the budgets for the regional governments.

Although Garrido said that it was not he who had defeated Arreaza but rather “the people,” he added that he will have no problem hearing any proposal from the national government if and when it is for the “development and progress of Barinas.”

“We’re not behind closed doors. We’re not petty … Here we’re open-minded, all those who want to come to help, to collaborate, to contribute to the development and strengthening … of our state are welcome here, no matter where they come from,” Garrido said.

He also acknowledged that the government alone will not be able to resolve the region’s problems and, to do that, he will strike agreements with businessmen, producers, livestock raisers, embassies and even with the national government to alleviate the current difficulties in Barinas.

EFE gcs-gdl/sb/jrh-cpy/bp

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