The race for the presidency of Venezuela officially begins today, but the competition has been heated for weeks now. The two main candidates, Nicolás Maduro and Henrique Capriles, have already toured half the country aggressively trying to undermine each other and win voters’ support.
The challenge for both is to paint a clear picture of what a future without Hugo Chávez, who succumbed to cancer on March 5th, looks like for 28 million Venezuelans. The tone of the campaigns, however, has been filled with verbal attacks and criticism, with Maduro going as far as threatening to arrest Capriles for questioning the date of Chávez’ death.
Meanwhile Maduro’s mission seems to be to convince the people of Venezuela that Hugo Chávez lives on in him and insisting that social programs created by Chávez that benefit the poor will be in danger of disappearing if he were not elected. He has the support of 20 out 0f 23 governors in the country who “will do whatever it takes to get Maduro elected,” says Latin American studies expert, Shannon O’Neill.
“Maduro isn’t Chávez,” said former Information Minister who also works on Maduro’s campaign, Andrés Izarra, “Maduro is his son. He is the person (…) who will move forward with his legacy. That is what will give him the victory.”
Capriles has accused Maduro of exploiting Chávez’ legacy. Analysts feel the rushed manner in which both candidates must campaign leads both to give a more aggressive tone to their discourse to make the most out of each public appearance.