Capriles's, Falcón's and Guarulla's key elements for winning reelection
There exist no fixed steps to win elections but residents of Lara, Miranda and Amazonas states agree that leadership builds up through one's own hard work. Missions developed by Venezuela's Government have been brought to the boxing cage and faced with the management of opposition leaders: schools, "go-ahead operations" and even football. That is how Chavezism has been left behind in this race
State governor Liborio Guarulla presents the "Tucanes de Amazonas" football team (Toucans of the Amazon) as one of the keys that last December 16 helped him get more votes, allowing him to be reelected with 55% of the votes.
He is convinced that through such experience, members of both political groups (Chavezism and opposition) have had the chance to compete at José Antonio Sucre football field based in Puerto Ayacucho. The team was first created back in 2008, and although it got eliminated from the first round this year, Guarulla highlights that this has helped to cheer a city up that has no movies, create a sense of ownership, and also propose an inclusion and evolution policy, which was seen from the very moment when it was founded until the day that the Venezuelan Football Federation accepted them in the professional league.
"In order to make a change happen, one has to make it collectively and that can only start by raising people's self-esteem," Guarulla claims. "The Toucans team encompasses a phenomenon which has enabled us to be together in the same football field even in the most critical moments of such sectarianism: all of us, red ones, green ones, blue ones. There are indeed many leaders from the opposite party, whose children belong to the aforementioned team and that creates a different link."
It is worth noting that neither the Toucans nor football have eliminated poverty from the southern area of Venezuela. Likewise, they have never built highways nor have they eliminated unemployment; nevertheless, it is the presentation card that Guarulla shows when it comes to reviewing the strategy and the message that helped him get himself a vacancy in the small Governors' club, who got the re-election last December 16, fighting for a spot against the machinery of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
Taking on Government Missions
The Venezuelan President's speech is mainly aimed at the poor sector of the country. From 1992 up to now, President Hugo Chávez's words have focused on vindicating many of the social, indigenous and country circles. How is it that the population of a state like Amazon was one of the few ones which preferred an opposition candidate as a governor?
Garulla claims –leaving any confrontation feeling aside- that he has been able to offer services and building projects to communities. In contrast to state-run Missions, he has also provided communities with other social programs such as the "miti y miti" ("half and half," colloquial expression to define that two people buy something by splitting the bill so that each party just pays half from the actual price). Such program funds half of the price of equipment like boat engines and machines for peeling yucca. This fund is only granted to those who comply with the basic rule: paying the remaining half.
This, according to Guarulla, breaks the myths regarding voters who only choose candidates that grant them scholarships. "How can housewares appliances provided by the Government be useful if the very Government does not provide appropriate electrical service?" Guarulla wonders. "Many native people ceased to plant and hunt due to the policies of the Fourth Republic and that is happening again with the state-led Missions; the challenge is to combine the meeting of social needs with educational programs."
Let us be clear on something that supposes no secret: Venezuelans just want someone to solve their problems and there is no other way than to assist them in their own living places. Guarulla feels that many political leaders are in the show business. There is the need to be in the neighborhoods, and it seems that on this opinion he agrees with his counterpart from Lara state. Although it was not possible to contact him, Deputy Alfredo Ramos asserts that Henri Falcón's management is associated with social care programs known at the entity as "go-ahead operations," " meetings of participative budget," "trekking activities" and "unexpected inspections."
Advances by improving the social agenda
The "impromptu operations" in Lara state are characterized for being a provider of physicians, aid and even the presence of the very Governor in the poor sectors of the city. The neighborhood starts to operate with health care programs, delivery of building materials and neighbors meetings, in which communication between authorities and neighbors is face to face.
It is sort of a street government, which Deputy Alfredo Ramos shows as one of the strategies that have worked well for Falcón in order to make himself known as a close and hard-working leader. "He is always in touch with people, Henri has not stopped visiting the communities," Ramos expresses.
Lara's state government also provides economic aid: a monthly USD 116.28 pension granted to the elderly, the sick and the physically/mentally challenged people. These are subsidies that – away from the thought of considering them a source of loyal clients- Ramos defends in a country filled with so much poverty.
People truly desire to get their problems solved, and in order to fulfill such needs and wishes, Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski highlights that his focus has been social aspects such as education: "Miranda stands out in the educational program arena and my management has been mainly aimed at the educational sector, which is a source for many other positive changes to occur."
Machinery for the Election Day
There is no fixed path that leads one to win elections. Capriles indicates that leaderships are created through one's own hard work; he believes that residents of Miranda state voted in favor of his management and his message, but in other states that was not enough.
The campaign teams of the three opposition governors agree to say that their electoral campaign structures played an important role when taking on Chávez's candidates. Otherwise, the outcome of October 7 (presidential election) would have replicated.
That day, Chavezism spoke ex cathedra: it took the homeless from their refugees to polling stations, it mobilized most of their comrades on their motorbikes, it provided food courtesy of oil holding Pdvsa and also set up air castles in some areas of Caracas, so that no parent could say that they had no one to take care of their children while casting their ballot.
Although with less resources, there was a troop of volunteers and members of Justice First political party who supported Capriles on the December 16 election, and who also made phone calls to most of their team in order to check they had made use of their right to vote. The same happened in Lara state. Alfredo Ramos, candidate for Iribarren Mayoralty expresses what they learned on October 7, 2012: "We focused the most on mobilization; we set up a call center and designated some "special mobilizers" in order to ensure votes on critical sites."
In Amazonas state, Guarulla made sure that there were enough boats for transporting native people who back him in the interior of the state. In the almost 12 years he has been ruling Amazonas, he has designed a network of "People Service Units," whose task is to aid and provide services in the whole state, and which served as a supportive element for mobilization on December 16.
Translated by Adrián Valera Villani
At first she agreed that I use her real name, that she had no problems with that at all. After all, living with HIV had driven her to help others – as a workshop facilitator giving talks and conducting seminars, or as a volunteer for local AIDS Service Organizations like Acción Solidaria (Solidary Action) and Mujeres Unidas por la Salud (Women United for Health, or Musa), a support group network for HIV-positive women. But when we were well into the interview, the realization that she might lose her private health insurance coverage made her change her mind.