VOICEOVER: On October 7th, Venezuelans will return to the polls to decide whether they will continue down the path of president Hugo Chavezâ€™s model of 21st century socialism, or change course by electing the first opposition candidate in more than a decade.
DAVID DOUGHERTY, CARACAS, VENEZUELA: Elections in Venezuela are less than a month away, and here in the capital city of Caracas, election campaigns are in full swing as they enter the final stretch of the campaign season. Most polling agencies indicate a solid lead for President Hugo Chavez, who will secure another 6-year term if re-elected.
VOICEOVER: Chavezâ€™s base has a visibly larger campaign presence in the streets of the capital. They say they have mobilized to defend the governmentâ€™s policies that have put an emphasis on investing a larger share of the nationâ€™s vast oil reserve wealth in a variety of social programs called Bolivarian Missions that have worked to reduce poverty and inequality in the South American country. Poverty levels have been more than halved; with extreme poverty reduced by as much as 70 percent during Chavezâ€™s tenure, and UNESCO has declared Venezuela an illiteracy free territory.
LINDA SISO, CHAVEZ SUPPORTER, PSUV, CARACAS: (subtitled) Every one of us here will defend the Bolivarian Missions, they must be defended, because here there used to be illiteracy, more than 1.5 million people were illiterate, today there is no illiteracy, everyone here is educated. Healthcare used to be inaccessible, if you werenâ€™t insured you couldnâ€™t get the medicine you needed, now itâ€™s free. Before, all the people who lived higher up on the mountains that were displaced by landslides had to return to live in the same areas, not today, now we have decent housing.
VOICEOVER: The umbrella coalition of Venezuelan opposition parties known as the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, will be represented by presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonsky of the Primero Justicia Party. 39-year old Capriles comes from a family of wealthy business elites, and served as Governor of the Miranda State before resigning in June of this year in order to be eligible to run for president. In a break from previous opposition strategies, his campaign platform has not publically opposed a role for the state in social spending and the economy, instead proposing to follow a mixed model based on that of former Brazilian President Lula Da Silva, who himself has endorsed president Chavez in the upcoming elections. This opposition organizer from Caprilesâ€™s Primero Justicia party says that the Chavez governmentâ€™s policies have not done enough to address important issues facing Venezuelans, and that they have sought to vilify the opposition.
ANTONY ROMERO, OPPOSITION SUPPORTER, PRIMERO JUSTICIA: (subtitled)Â¬Â¬Â¬Â¬Â¬Â¬Â¬Â¬ Heâ€™s been president for 14 years and we havenâ€™t had any tangible achievements or improvements in quality of life for Venezuelans, there is no program for employment, what is he going to do for youth employment? What is he going to do with the universities? What is he going to do about security? We have a government policy where what the president says is he is going to form a new geopolitical strategy in Latin America, or that heâ€™s going to save the world or save the countries in South America, what we Venezuelans want is to solve our own problems, the final phase of this governmentâ€™s campaign has been dedicated to seeking a dirty war against our political leaders, against Capriles Rodonski, Chavezâ€™s presidential campaign has sought to tarnish his image and ruin his prestige.
VOICEOVER: The Venezuelan opposition has been racked by several political scandals in recent weeks that could prove to cost them dearly as both campaigns race to the finish. An alleged internal MUD document was leaked by a member of the opposition, highlighting their economic plan in the event of an electoral victory, which included privatizations, the deregulation of the financial sector, and a number of other neoliberal reforms seeking to cut back the roll of the state. 2 opposition members were expelled from the coalition after publically voicing their opposition to the plan and calling for a debate, and at least 4 participating political parties have announced their resignation from the MUD coalition. More recently, one of Caprilesâ€™ top aids was sacked after facing corruption accusations when a video emerged of him secretly accepting money to set up a meeting between Capriles and an unidentified businessman. Romain Migus is a French sociologist who recently released a book detailing an investigation into the MUD party platform, which he says in spite of their recent public discourse, is firmly grounded in a neoliberal program.
ROMAIN MIGUS, AUTHOR, EL PROGRAMA MUD: (subtitled) What have they said, what have they proposed? I think the real question is what have they not proposed, because they have a discourse in the media where they propose a lot of things, that are in contradiction to their own plan for government. What does their government plan say? Itâ€™s a plan set in the neoliberal ideology, a plan where private profit exceeds, is placed on top of, the collective wellbeing, it is oriented in the privatization of basic public services like food, health, and education, but also road infrastructure, environmental and cultural policy, and the provisioning of water and electricity.
VO5: Some of the hotbed election issues this year include housing: with Venezuela facing a chronic and severe housing shortage; crime, with Caracas and other Venezuelan cities said to be among the most violent in the world; and government inefficiency and corruption. President Chavez has also battled with cancer over the past year, and though he has announced a full recovery following a number of treatment sessions in Cuba, some have questioned whether he is healthy enough to occupy the post of presidency. In spite of the shortcomings and setbacks facing the incumbent government, several polls place Chavezâ€™s electoral support at more than 50 percent, and one of Venezuelaâ€™s more credible polling agencies Datanalisis, whoâ€™s owner openly supports the opposition, puts Chavez electoral support at just over 43 percent, comfortably ahead of Capriles by 13 percentage points.