Venezuela’s cradle of Chavismo picking new gov in vote re-do

BARINAS, Venezuela (AP) – Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez vote again on Sunday in a special election for governor called after the opposition candidate in the regular competition of November was retroactively disqualified for leading the vote count.

Candidates in the northwestern state of Barinas include a local opposition leader, an opposition dissident and a former foreign minister. For the first time in more than two decades, no member of Chávez’s family is on the ballot.

The disqualification of Freddy Superlano by the country’s highest court and the scheduling of the special contest raised further doubts about the fairness of Venezuela’s electoral system after the first vote in years in which most of the major political parties participated.

Superlano was disqualified on November 29 when he was less than a percentage point ahead of starter Argenis Chávez, one of Hugo Chávez’s brothers. The High Court, which is one of many government bodies considered loyal to President Nicolas Maduro’s government, ignored a presidential pardon that had made Superlano and other members of the opposition eligible.

Barinas has long been a stronghold of Chavismo, with his brother Argenis Chávez, his brother Adán Chávez and his father Hugo de los Reyes Chávez, all governors since 1998.

But the attraction of the former president, who founded the ruling socialist movement in Venezuela, proved weak on November 21. poor health services and hunger due to food shortages.

Argenis Chávez resigned his governorship following Superlano’s disqualification and did not participate in the special election. The ruling party then chose former Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza as its candidate.

In addition to Superlano’s disqualification, his wife, who was chosen to succeed him, was disqualified. His replacement too.

Sunday’s poll also includes Sergio Garrido, an opposition candidate backed by the United States, and Claudio Fermin, an opposition dissident.

The number of votes for the ruling party has been declining since 2017 across the country. About 6.5 million people voted for pro-government candidates in the regional elections that year. On November 21, that number fell to around 3.7 million.

The November 21 election was monitored by more than 130 observers from the European Union, the UN and the US-based Carter Center.

A preliminary report by European Union observers concluded that Venezuela’s regional contests had run under better conditions than other polls in recent years, but were still marred by “structural failures”, including disqualification. opposition candidates.

The EU team did not comment on the situation in Barinas, but a Carter Center report criticized the court’s intervention.

“There was also a general atmosphere of political repression, and more than 250 people are being held as political prisoners,” the center said. “The recent court decision to suspend the counting of votes for the post of governor of Barinas is another example of its interference in the electoral process.

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