Thank you for asking your interesting question. I do love learning
about other countries, so it was a pleasure for me to research so much
into Venezuelan politics.
Here are some things that you would have to focus on in order to run
for this presidency.
Overall, Hugo Chavez is extremely popular and would be tremendously
difficult to beat. However, he does have weaknesses and I have
outlined them. He is full of ideas, but mostly empty promises (as many
politicians are). Although he ran on an anti-corruption and
anti-poverty platform in the 1998 election, corruption and poverty
have continued unabated in Venezuela. The murder rate has tripled
under his regime, jobs have not been created, and corruption might
have even increased.
Here is a list of past presidents of Venezuela for your information:
1. Popularity-- building a base of voters
Hugo Chavez, the incumbent Venezuelan president, is extremely popular,
but that does not mean that other candidates do not enjoy a modicum of
popularity, either. In order to have a chance at being elected, it
helps to be well-known either in politics already or outside of
politics, and well-liked. For example, a week ago, a popular comedian
named Benjamin Rausseo declared his candidacy. He will probably not
win, but he has more of a chance due to the fact that many voters
already know him and like him, if not in a political manner. (1) The
"Another headache for Mr Rosales is the emergence of a maverick
candidate, Benjamín Rausseo, who could steal votes from him. There are
rumours that the government is funding this bawdy comic who calls
himself the Count of Guácharo (a reference to a noisy bird from his
home state in the east). Whether or not that is true, he almost
perfectly matches the profile of the ?outsider? some pollsters see as
the ideal rival to Mr Chávez." (3)
Chavez is so popular that at first, it was unclear whether opposition
parties would even nominate a candidate to run against him. But the
opposition parties have rallied around the candidacy of Manuel
Rosales, the governor of Zulia, the state which contains Venezuela's
second most important city, Maracaibo. He won a primary held by a
number of opposition parties.
Chavez was actually overthrown in a coup during his last term in
office, but won a recall referendum and has enjoyed runaway popularity
ever since, probably because of a wave of oil money that Venezuela is
currently enjoying. The Economist writes that "The divided and
leaderless opposition, by contrast, has toiled in the political
wilderness." (2) Chavez has the backing of 55 percent of voters in
various opinion polls. The coup was led by some of Venezuela's private
media sources and by those in the upper class in Venezuela-- who in
the country's Chavez-led move to communism have gotten short shrift.
He heads a left-wing, populist movement called "Chavismo."
Here are some details on Chavez's manner in public which has probably
won over voters, from the Guardian: "On stage, Chávez is entertaining,
like a stand-up comedian, and very physical: he mimes the way people
cringe away from him in horror when they first meet this terrifying
dictator. But in person he is thoughtful and concentrates carefully on
the details." (11)
The dominant party that was ousted when Chavez came to power,
Democratic Action, now has a leader, Henry Ramos, who says that any
opposition to Chavez are ?drunks fighting over an empty bottle?,
because Venezuela is in such a bad place politically right now.
While Chavez's popularity may seem insurmountable to an opponent, keep
in mind that popularity is fleeting, rather than enduring, and can
change over the years as the political climate changes. At one time,
Chavez was in prison for two years for trying to overthrow a previous
president in a military coup. Now, rather than emphasizing his
military past as a soldier, he positions himself as a populist who
cares about the common people. He gained their trust by traveling
around during his 1998 campaign and talking to them in a charismatic
and ribald way, and an equally charismatic opponent could try to do
In almost any country, in order to win the top job one must have the
resources to do so. Chavez, actually, has come under fire for
utilizing too many resources-- he's used public funds to fund his
current campaign. Amid criticism of this, the electoral authority has
promised to not allow him to do so.
In order to win an election in Venezuela, as in many other countries,
a candidate would need millions of dollars in order to win.
As mentioned above, Benjamin Rausseo, the comedian, is thought to be
funded by sources in the government opposed to Chavez.
In any case, in order to win this election, major amounts of money
from some source would be required-- Chavez and Rausseo seem to have
the government's almost-endless amounts of taxpayer dollars funding
them, and a candidate to oppose them would need major cash, also.
A possible source could be US interests or another country's
interests. The Guardian reported today that the US has possibly been
funding anti-Chavez opposition through an international aid agency,
money that was given to help fund democracy by its US Agency for
International Development (USAID). The US has also recently made $80
million available to groups seeking to change the political climate in
Cuba, Venezuela's ally. This could be a powerful source of money that
would be able to put forth a campaign on par with the public resources
of Chavez and apparently Rausseo, as mentioned above. (10)
However, this might not be the best move politically, as your
opponents would probably confront you with the fact that you had taken
"gringo money," as Chavez has called it. (13) However, these
particular grants' recipients have not been made public by the US on
grounds that they would be harassed by the Chavez government-- so it
might not be publicly known if you had this source of money. However,
if known, it is possible that charges could be brought against you and
prison time faced-- for various charges probably unrelated to the
actual accepting of the money, as faced by the leaders of Sumate (13).
In addition, by making friends with many of the country's well-placed
elite who are opposed to Chavez (he often takes away private companies
and lands and places them in the public domain), one could find
themselves with many donations to a campaign fund.
Incidentally, it appears that taking money from foreign sources is
only looked down upon by Chavez if the source is American-- his 1998
campaign was funded in large part by foreign banks, including Spain's
Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) and Banco Santander, which gave
him millions of dollars.
3. Political Party--
In order to win, you would have to be affiliated with some type of
political party. To have the best chance of winning, you would already
be an established memeber of a party and they would nominate you as
their candidate. Rausseo did not have his own party backing, so he
created his own one-man political party, called the Independent Party
for Advanced Answers. This may not help himn in the election, however,
as being affiliated with a large political party can garner a
candidate automatic votes from fellow party members. However, his
candidacy shows that major party backing is not necessary simply to
run for president of Venezuela-- and, in fact, it could be a
detriment, as voters dislike the Chavez opposition parties and the
candidates affiliated with them.
Other than Chavez, candidates in Venezuela seem to represent small,
assorted and diverse political parties. Rosales' heads his own party,
called A New Time. Following the lead of Rosales and Rausseo, it would
be possible to begin your own political party and come up with your
own platform, but you would have to work extra hard to gain supporters
for your ideas and donations from those supporters.
Your best chance would be to create your own political party or unite
with one that is not affiliated with the opposition that Chavez
discredited in the election of 1998, as they are widely mistrusted by
the public. These are the democratic Acción Democrática and the
Christian democratic Comité de Organización Política Electoral
Independente (COPEI). As Chavez did in that election, your best hope
would be to discredit the opposition by charging them with corruption
and failure to carry out their promises to the people. I detail this
more in the "Agenda" section below.
The Economist writes, "Many Venezuelans have hitherto been inclined to
absolve Mr Chávez of personal blame [for the government's failures].
But their discontents provide scope for an independent candidate not
identified with the discredited opposition." (14)
A possible party could be Proyecto Venezuela, which ran against Chavez
in the 1998 election and garnered 2.6 million votes to his 3.6
In order to run for president, you would have to stand for something
clear and advantageous to voters, in order to convince them to vote
for you. This is in part what makes Chavez so popular-- Venezuela is
flush with money from oil right now and he has incorporated that money
into various social programs and job schemes targeted to the poor and
working class constituents. He is also good at communicating with
them and seeming to make a connection with them. Many voters trust him
over leaders of opposition parties, which have been in power in the
past but were discredited when Chavez was elected.
A central element of your philosophy would be whether you take a
communist stance, such as Chavez does, or whether you are more of a
democratic nature. Much of Chavez's opposition believes that he is not
democratic enough and feel that his views are dangerous to the
country, while Chavez's camp has portrayed the opposition as
privileged people trying to keep their powers away from the
underprivileged. This has led to Chavez's popularity on a wide level
with Venezuelan citizens.
Chavez has charisma and has convinced voters that he is a great
president despite the fact that three fourths of Venezuelans think the
overall government of the country is corrupt and incompetent. Here are
some thoughts from the Economist on how he managed to accomplish this
"Yes, after seven years in power and a massive oil windfall, Mr Chávez
has finally created some health and education programmes for the urban
poor. At last, poverty is falling (though it is still around 40%) in
Venezuela?but it would be extraordinary if it were not, given the oil
price. Yes, Mr Chávez has twice been elected and remains popular. But
he is running down his country's wealth. Having dismantled all checks,
balances and independent institutions, his regime rests on his
personal control of the state oil company, the armed forces and armed
With the world's sixth-largest oil reserves, Venezuela is in a good
place monetarily right now, and Chavez has funded literacy drives for
the poor, health clinics in slums, free treatment to AIDS patients,
and schooling for adults, all of which have helped make him extremely
popular with those helped by these policies. He has taken up the
mantle of the great Latin American leader, Simon Bolivar, and even had
Venezuela renamed as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, a move
which was ratified by the public in a referendum.
Chavez has been able to convince voters, 40 percent of whom in
Venezuela are poor, that he is indeed a caring populist and wants to
help them. He has mastered the art of spending oil money on certain
ventures for the poor, while not actually having to come up with any
kind of substantial policy that would give a long-term benefit to
these citizens. An example, not directly Chavez's but from a mayoral
ally, is this recent story of the seizure of two golf courses in order
to build shantytowns for Caracas' poor. The mayor of Caracas, Juan
Barreto, said of the move, "It's shameful to see people playing golf
and just right there in front of them is a shantytown." (6)
However, seizing the privately held golf courses to build more
shantytowns for the poor does nothing to solve the actual problem of
the fact that there are many, many poor people in Caracas who live in
more and more shantytowns. It just builds more shantytowns! But, you
can see how this is a good public relations move-- poorer people will
think that the government is doing something helpful to them at the
expense of rich people, even though they really will see no benefit
from it other than a few more places to live (and two fewer places to
work, as previously they might have been able to have jobs at these
golf courses.) In addition, other people might not start businesses in
the first place, afraid that the government will seize it, and
consequently there will probably be fewer jobs created in Venezuela
because of this act. Chavez has also seized privately held
agricultural farmlands to build houses for the poor.
As you can see, politics in Venezuela, as everywhere, is often more a
matter of how one is seen of the moment by those who might vote for
you rather than thinking up substantial policies that help everyone
and solve problems in the long term.
Chavez's policy of standing up to America, and George Bush in
particular, has proved itself popular not only in Venezuela but in
other Latin American countries as well. He always refers to America as
an empire, and comes up with schemes such as a Venezuelan movie studio
to rival Hollywood movies filmed about South America, that cater to
Venezuelans' pride in themselves. America is the most powerful country
in the world, and just as the golf course mowed down for the
shantytowns, to see it ridiculed in favour of their own country gives
Venezuelans pride in themselves, their own country and their
" 'Hugo Chavez is extremely popular in Latin America. They love his
style of standing up to Uncle Sam,' said Larry Birns, head of the
Washington-based Council Of Hemispheric Affairs (COHA).
"'In some places he is even more popular than that country's own president.'" (5)
Chavez is popular, then, perhaps not just because of his anti-American
sentiments, but also because those ideas help give all of Latin
America an idea of strength and self-worth.
There ARE some huge issues which Chavez does not do well on, which an
opposing candidate could use to undermine him. Since he took office,
the country's murder rate has tripled, and crime overall has
experienced similar highs. Caracas is now South America's most violent
capital, which is a huge issue considering how dangerous some of the
other capitals are. Many of the suspected murderers are police
themselves! The public prosecutor's office is currently investigating
6,000 killings supposedly committed by police officers. Since police
officers are hired by the state, this really makes the government look
bad and Chavez has no defense for it. Some people claim that gang
members are purposely hired into the police force to enforce political
force rather than actually fight crime, as the police are supposed to.
This could explain the huge amounts of murders by the police. While
Chavez is popular with poor people, most murders are committed in the
slums and never receive media attention. But seeing so many people
killed in their neighborhoods must worry poor Venezuelans, who make up
most voters, and this is an issue that Chavez could be defeated on if
used properly. (14)
In addition, although Chavez took office by claiming corruption on the
part of his opponents, corruption has continued under his regime,
possibly even more so.
Although he is a champion of the poor, Chavez has been able to help
them only by giving them oil money for health clinics and literacy
drives and things of that nature, and not jobs, which are the most
important factor in whether a person will continue to be poor or not.
Although the unemployment level has gone down from last year's 12
percent to 9 percent (after previously going up to 20 percent in
2003), Chavez is off base when he implies, "Unemployment in Venezuela
is headed toward zero." (12) Jobs have been created in the public
sector, but those will not last when the oil boom ends, or when the
government realizes that it is vastly in debt and needs to get
finances in line, whichever comes first. Chavez's attacks on private
investment-- seizing private farms and the like-- do not give sorely
needed jobs to poor Venezuelans.
In addition, I believe a respected candidate could make much of the
issue that Chavez champions himself as a man for the poor, a populist,
and one of them, when he jet-sets around the world in designer suits
and Cartier watches. He has placed members of his family in government
In addition, Chavez's most popular policy, nationalizing oil fields
and taking them away from privately held companies from countries such
as Norway and Italy, is not viable long-term. For now, oil prices are
high and countries are willing to pay what Venezuela wants rather than
back out of the country. But in the future, as oil prices decline,
other countries will be much less willing to go to Venezuela, where
their companies, land and products could simply be seized by the
government. Venezuela is not as easy to mine for oil as many countries
and therefore needs heavy investment in order to mine, find and
produce the oil. If the oil fields are all state-owned, the state will
have to provide all that money, and Chavez's heavy domestic spending
on social programs has left the country in debt and probably unable to
do this. In other words, the oil wealth of Venezuela is a cycle that
will inevitably go round the other way-- to low oil prices and
Furthermore, Chavez is popular mostly because of his IDEAS, generic
ideologies such as helping the poor, rather than his POLICIES, which
have not really helped the poor too much and as seen above, have made
the crime rate soar and killed many of those poor people. He realizes
that. This is why he goes around shouting against America and its
policies-- he knows that any real debate would expose his weaknesses,
but being anti-American is a popular idea which will gain him votes.
It makes no sense at all for a country to make its main ideology just
being against another country and its ideas rather than focusing on
its own ideas and policies, but that is what Chavez has done.
For the upcoming election, Chavez has again tried to focus the
spotlight on how he is anti-American, rather than real issues such as
crime and safety, and jobs. The Economist writes: "Mr Chávez will
seek another six-year term at an election in December. The government
wants to shift the political debate away from bread and butter issues.
So Mr Chávez is claiming that what is at stake in the election is an
ideological conflict between the United States and Venezuela's
?Bolivarian revolution? and that his true opponent will be George
In fact, rather than focus on Rosales' legitimate ideas concerning
rates of poverty and jobs in the country, Chavez resorts to
anti-American sentiments when referring to his opponent: "The other
candidates are candidates of the empire ... lackeys of imperialism.
They're the Venezuela of the past, which will never, ever return."
(12) Rosales is the popular governor of a state in Venezuela; he has
nothing to do with America and has nothing to do with the two
political parties that Chavez ousted in the 1998 election. Why does
Chavez accuse him of being a "lackey of imperialism," then? It is
because these anti-American statements are popular and will turn the
public against Rosales, even if untrue. Be prepared for continuing
statements such as these from Chavez.
Rosales actually had a pretty good reply: "I'm the candidate of the
fatherland, of Venezuela. We don't have to bow before the United
States, nor do we have to give away money to the bearded one, Fidel
The Economist writes that in the two months before this April 2006
story, there were 30 demonstrations by the poor in Caracas wanting the
government to fulfil its promises of housing and jobs. The
government's approval rating at that time was 14 percent. How can
Chavez be so popular then when his government is not? Most Venezuelans
like Chavez and are charmed by him, and are willing to believe that
the government's shortcomings are not his fault. A charming leader
from the opposition who could squarely place the blame on Chavez's
shoulders would have a decent chance of getting elected-- none of the
candidates so far have been able to do this, however.
The biggest and best hope for you as far as being a candidate is being
a fresh face with exciting ideas. According to the Economist, "A
recent poll by one firm, Hinterlaces, found that ?someone new? (17%)
and ?none of the above? (10%) came second and third in the list of
voter preferences, well ahead of Mr Rosales (7%)." (2) The
Venezuelans will probably choose Chavez, but that is possibly not that
he is better than any candidates, but that he is better than the
candidates that have presented themselves so far.
Chavez came to power in a sweep of reforms that he called the
"Bolivarian revolution," and similarly, a new candidate could come to
enjoy just as much popularity by offering a package of their own,
improved reforms. Chavez ended state privatization and cut oil
production to increase prices. Large, sweeping, and broad reforms like
these that challenge Chavez and would also help the poor could
position a candidate to challenge Chavez.
According to the Venezuelan Constitution:
"Only Venezuelans by birth who have no other nationality shall be
permitted to hold the offices of President* of the Republic, Executive
Vice President, Chairman* and Vice-Chairman* of the National
"Article 227: In order to be elected President* of the Republic, it is
necessary to be Venezuelan* by birth, with no other nationality, to be
more than 30 years of age, not a member of the clergy and not subject*
to any conviction by final judgment, as well as meeting fulfill other
requirements prescribed in this Constitution."
First, you would have to register with the National Electoral Council,
or Consejo Nacional Electoral, (CNE) as an official candidate.
A successful candidacy would have a large kickoff celebration--
attended by thousands of supporters and widely covered by
international and national news organizations. This can be seen with
Rousseo, and with Chavez, whose rally was covered by state television
channels. At Rosales' rally, he gave a speech about how Chavez has not
done enough for the poor.
You would have to have the support of other opposition candidates
and/or parties. The primary win of Rosales got him a lot of attention
and he is now looked at as the major candidate to possibly beat
You would have to have lots of newspaper coverage. International
coverage is desirable, of course, but national coverage by Venezuelan
newspapers is probably preferable for getting the attention of voters
and furthering your candidacy.
Television coverage is also extremely important. The public channels
support Chavez overall, while the private television channels stand in
opposition to Chavez. As can be expected, government officials claim
the private channels are biased, while the private channels maintain
that they are just preserving freedom of expression in Venezuela.
Chavez went so far as to order an investigation into the licenses that
allow private channels to be on the air! You might have a better
chance of getting coverage on the private channels. Here are
television channels in Venezuela:
* La Tele
* Meridiano Televisión
* Puma TV
* Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV)
* Vale TV
* Venezolana de Televisión (VTV)
Here is what a group (keep in mind that the group is funded by
Chavez's government) said about Venezuela's private media:
?After Chávez came to power in 1998, the five main privately owned
channels ? Venevisión, Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), Globovisión,
Televen and CMT ? and nine out of the 10 major national newspapers,
including El Universal, El Nacional, Tal Cual, El Impulso, El Nuevo
País and El Mundo, have taken over the role of the traditional
political parties, which were damaged by the president?s electoral
victories. Their monopoly on information has put them in a strong
position. The give the opposition support, only rarely reporting
government statements and never mentioning its large majority?Their
investigations, interviews and commentaries all pursue the same
objective: to undermine the legitimacy of the government and to
destroy the president?s popular support?the media is still directly
encouraging dissident elements to overthrow the democratically elected
president ? if necessary by force?? (9)
What is clear from this statement is that Venezuela's media, despite
the president's popularity, are not willing to give concessions to
Chavez and give him tough coverage. This would be advantageous to a
candidate trying to come into the campaign.
The Female Issue
Would a woman be able to run and be elected as president in Venezuela?
The answer, actually, is yes. Chavez himself faced an opponent who was
a woman, Irene Sáez, a former pageant queen and right-winger.
Sáez was helped by the fact that she was already very well-known in
Venezuela-- she had been crowned Miss Venezuela and then Miss Universe
in 1981. She had political experience, as the mayor of Chacao, a rich
area of Caracas, and then governor of the Nueva Esparta state. Sáez is
not a threat to run for president again any time soon, as she now
lives in Miami.
As far as time frames, Chavez just kicked off his campaign on August
12, and Raussseo just announced on August 23. If you already met many
of the requirements that I have outlined (the money, popularity and
major party backing), now would not be too late to enter the race.
However, the time it would take to fundraise and assimilate yourself
into a major party if these have not already been done for the
campaign would not allow time for a proper campaign, I fear.
Here are some other things to think about:
It is highly unlikely that a candidate could enter the race now, with
no major party backing, and defeat Chavez. However, another election
will be held in six years, and between now and then you could do your
best to try and become the best candidate as possible and try to win
the presidency of Venezuela.
The election, even if won by someone other than Chavez, may very well
be rigged in his favor anyway. The Economist reports that voters'
fingerprints are taken at machines at the polls, which violates the
secrecy of voting and can discourage qualified voters from showing at
the polls, and paper ballots are not counted when machines
malfunction. The Electoral Council (which only has members of Chavez's
party on it) has refused to allow the registry of voters to be
independently audited, leading many to suspect that the rolls of
voters have been padded with fake names-- the rolls have oddly
expanded by two million names in the past two years. And, as stated
above, Chavez has tried to take away the licenses of private TV
channels that are opposed to him.
For these reasons, many opposition parties to Chavez have called for a
boycott of the general election and fear that if a boycott is not
held, many who oppose Chavez will believe the election is rigged
anyway and won't show up at all.
"Even opposition politicians who want to take part have warned the
electoral council that, if it does not heed their demands for fair
play, the president could be left to compete against himself. In
response, Mr Chávez has threatened to hold a simultaneous referendum
to remove the constitutional limit of two consecutive presidential
The Economist goes on to say that Chavez is so concerned about making
sure the election goes his way because if voter turnout is low, the
results could be close and not in his favor.
1. BBC News
2. The Ecomomist "Damned whatever they do"
July 20, 2006
3. The Economist "The Opposition Finds a Leader"
August 17, 2006
4. The Economist "The battle for Latin America's soul"
May 18, 2006
5. BBC News
"Chavez opponents face tough times"
By Greg Morsbach
December 6, 2005
6. BBC News
"Venezuela to seize golf courses"
August 30, 2006
7. The Guardian
"Chavez film puts staff at risk, says Amnesty"
Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
Saturday November 22, 2003
"All Things Considered"
"Venezuela Debates Media's Role in Campaign"
by Clara Long
July 3, 2006
10. The Guardian
"US accused of bid to oust Chávez with secret funds"
August 30, 2006
11. The Guardian
"The world according to Chávez"
May 16, 2006
12. NC Times
"Top Chavez opponent holds first campaign rally in Venezuela"
By: FABIOLA SANCHEZ - Associated Press
13. USA Today
"U.S. aid stirring suspicion in Venezuela"
August 26, 2006
14. The Economist
"Crimes and misdemeanours"
April 20, 2006
15. The Economist
October 7, 2004
16. The Economist
"Farewell to the apertura petrolera"
April 5, 2006
17. The Economist
"The sickly stench of corruption"
March 30, 2006
18. The Economist
February 16, 2006
venezuela popular candidate
venezuela campaign staff
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Thank you for your intriguing question. For your sake, I hope you have
many political ties, donors and money to win this election, and if you
do, don't forget those on Google Answers who helped you! :) If you
don't have any of these connections yet, I hope I gave you an idea
about what you can do so you could win an election in the future. Best
of luck to you.
If you need any further help or clarifications of my answer, please
let me know and I'll be glad to assist you. Thank you!