Venezuelan Chavism pushing for continuity

By Gonzalo Domínguez Loeda

Caracas, Aug 19 (EFE).- Chavism has been opting for continuity all across Venezuela, where new leadership is bubbling but where it has selected the current governors as its candidates for the upcoming elections, even though exhaustion with Chavista leadership is ever more present among regular Venezuelans, a sign of the difficult task of replacing or renewing the most visible leaders.

Despite the fact that the candidates have still not been selected for all the regions, since in the states with the tightest races the process will take longer, in at least eight regions the gubernatorial hopefuls will be the current Chavista leaders.

To those must be added a well-known face, that of veteran Freddy Bernal, who will compete in the gubernatorial election in Tachira state, which is currently controlled by the opposition, and in Caracas, where the current vice president and interior minister, Carmen Rodriguez, will seek reelection as mayor.

Thus, a dozen or so veteran Chavista leaders – among whom the only candidate to be a rejuvenating figure is Hector Rodriguez, 39, and the current governor of Miranda state – will carry the banner of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and will block any possibility of providing an alternative governing force in the regions.

That bloc is preventing new names from arising in the regions that might stir up the current situation, since – as the president of the Datanalisis survey firm, Luis Vicente Leon, told EFE – “the majority” of the leaders in Venezuela “come from the regions, from their management” of city halls and states.

“The actors who transform themselves into great national leaders have always been regional leaders,” he said.

Leon said that President Nicolas Maduro is on top in all the surveys and, at his apex, after the death of former President Hugo Chavez – the founder of Chavism – he achieved nationwide popularity of 55 percent.

“From there on out, far from what normally occurs, which is an initial increase in popularity and backing for a leader who’s in office, (the popularity of) Maduro started a very rapid decline … until it’s (now) below 20 percent,” he said.

At times, according to figures collected by Datanalisis, “he has 15 percent, sometimes 14 percent, sometimes 17 percent,” but “he’s stayed around 15 percent for the past two years.”

In contrast to what usually happens, “Maduro’s fall doesn’t necessary represent the rise of someone else,” either from the ranks of Chavism or from among the opposition.

So, he said, this means that although Maduro’s popularity “is low,” currently “there’s no other Chavista leader who is challenging him in terms of popularity.”

Regarding the vice president of the PSUV, Diosdado Cabello, who is considered the natural counterweight to Maduro within the party, Leon said that his survey team has noticed that “he doesn’t have as many levels of popular connection” as Maduro, while the current president of Parliament, Jorge Rodriguez, “is even lower.”

The only Chavista leaders who “have had a couple of years of popularity higher than Maduro” were the state governors of Miranda, Hector Rodriguez, and of Carabobo, Rafael Lacava.

The PSUV, as political observer and former activist Nicmer Evans said, has mechanisms of internal ascent but only “as per the viewpoint of a Stalinist party, and as per the possibility of being part of one of the predominant currents and being absolutely loyal and submissive” to the trends headed by Maduro and Cabello.

“In this succession strategy, generally the time periods are very long. A young man must have a lot of patients and submissiveness to rise and advance,” he said.

Being useful, he added, means helping “maintain, preserve and extend the power of these two currents … (and) being ready to do anything within one’s power” to foster that.

“It doesn’t matter if you violate the law, the constitution or human rights provided that you can satisfy the need to preserve power” in the hands of the PSUV, he said.

In Evans’s judgment, the origin of the divorce between the Chavista leadership and the public is in the way power is inherited, since “Chavez had legitimacy, he was a charismatic man … (and) he had convinced the majority of the people that his plan was worth the trouble.”

In contrast, “Maduro is not the man who went out into the streets to convince people,” but rather the one who was the designated successor and “has not been able to acquire legitimacy.”

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