Opposition wins revote for governor in heartland of Chavismo

Jan 9, 2022, 10:09 PM | Updated: Jan 10, 2022, 5:12 pm
Former ruling party Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza concedes the previous day's gubernatorial re-run...

Former ruling party Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza concedes the previous day's gubernatorial re-run election to opposition candidate Sergio Garrido in Barinas, Venezuela, Monday Jan. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

(AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

BARINAS, Venezuela (AP) — Twice in less than two months, Venezuela’s opposition has prevailed in the gubernatorial race in the home state of the late President Hugo Chávez, shocking the ruling socialist party he founded.

Voters in the state of Barinas on Sunday picked a candidate from the U.S.-backed opposition in a closely watched special election that was called after the contender representing that bloc in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count.

Sergio Garrido got 55.4% of the vote, according to electoral authorities, defeating former foreign minister Jorge Arreaza, whose campaign drew ruling party heavy hitters in an all-out effort to keep the bastion of Chavismo under their control. The candidates campaigned for roughly five weeks after Venezuela’s highest court disqualified opposition candidate Freddy Superlano and the special contest was scheduled.

“This town of Barinas accepted the challenge democratically, and today, we managed to be the iconic state of all Venezuela,” Garrido said Sunday. “… Today, the people of Barinas demonstrated that in unity and with the strength of all of you, they achieved it, they managed to overcome obstacles, we managed to overcome adversity.”

Superlano was disqualified Nov. 29 while he was ahead by less than a percentage point over incumbent Gov. Argenis Chávez, one of Hugo Chávez’s brothers. Superlano’s wife, who was chosen as his successor, was disqualified, too. So was her substitute.

Argenis Chávez resigned as governor following Superlano’s disqualification and did not enter the race in the special election, leaving the governor’s ballot free of a Chavez family member for the first time in more than two decades. The ruling party then chose Arreaza as its candidate.

In picking Arreaza, President Nicolas Maduro said the ruling party needed a new candidate “to go to the rescue.” The party rallied its base, urging unity, and even ended a gasoline rationing system that Barinas residents loathed. But it was enough for many people angry over a lack of basic services like gas, water and electricity, deficient health care services and hunger from food scarcity.

Arreaza conceded the contest Sunday evening before any results were announced by electoral officials.

Supporters of Arreaza gathered at a theater Monday, chanting “Morale up, comrades!” and “Viva Arreaza!”

“Undoubtedly, we must accept with dignity the quantitative, numerical defeat that we suffered yesterday,” Arreaza told his supporters. “That only makes us fill ourselves with learnings, with lessons, and we have to analyze very well (the results) … We have been analyzing the results, comparing them, and well, those results speak, but they also speak of the fact that we also grew almost 30,000 votes, comrades … If we had had one more week, one more campaign month, the story would have been different. “

Vote counts for the ruling party have been declining since 2017 across the country. About 6.5 million people voted for pro-government candidates during that year’s regional elections. On Nov. 21, that number dropped to about 3.7 million.

The significance of the election was not lost on voters.

“I feel in high spirits to participate again so we can finally move forward from this issue that began on Nov. 21,” Luisa Contreras, 70, said before entering a voting center.

Venezuela’s high court, which is one of many government bodies seen as loyal to Maduro’s government, disqualified Superlano even though he had been given a presidential pardon that had made the candidate and other members of the opposition eligible to run in November’s regional elections.

The moves in Barinas raised further doubts about the fairness of Venezuela’s electoral system following the first vote in years in which most major political parties took part, albeit divided over the value of doing so.

The opposition parties grouped in the so-called “Unitary Platform” and led by Juan Guaidó boycotted previous elections, including the reelection of Maduro as president in May 2018, arguing that Venezuela lacks the conditions for free and just contests. However, some small opposition organizations bucked the boycott and took part, as some did in 2020’s legislative elections.

Guaidó did not vote on Nov. 21. On Monday, he insisted that electoral participation is a “false dilemma” under the conditions of a “dictatorship,” but praised voters for Sunday’s result, nonetheless.

“The will to fight is the most important thing that happened yesterday,” Guaidó told reporters Monday. “The electoral result, fundamental. Unity, very important, a requirement to face this regime. But the message that I want to leave to the people of Venezuela … is that they are the majority, it is that we have not given up, and we are not going to do so. It is that the democratic resistance does give its fruits and that the strength and conviction to see a free country generates results.”

November’s regional elections were monitored by over 130 observers from the European Union, the U.N. and the U.S.-based Carter Center.

A preliminary report from European Union observers concluded the contests were held under better conditions than other Venezuelan ballots in recent years but were still marred by “structural deficiencies,” including the disqualification of opposition contenders.

The EU team did not comment on the situation in Barinas, but a report from the Carter Center 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 tribunal’s recent decision to suspend the tabulation of votes for the governorship of Barinas is another example of its interference in the electoral process.”

___

Garcia Cano reported from Mexico City.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Liashko speaks to The Associated Press reporters during an intervi...
Associated Press

Ukrainian minister says Russia blocking access to medicines

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s health minister has accused Russian authorities of committing a crime against humanity by blocking access to affordable medicines in areas its forces have occupied since invading the country 5 1/2 months ago. In an interview with The Associated Press, Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Liashko said Russian authorities repeatedly have blocked […]
2 hours ago
ADDS NAME OF DETAINED PERSON Law enforcement officers detain Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, N.J., out...
Associated Press

Author Salman Rushdie on ventilator after New York stabbing

CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. (AP) — Salman Rushdie, whose novel “The Satanic Verses” drew death threats from Iran’s leader in the 1980s, was stabbed in the neck and abdomen Friday by a man who rushed the stage as the author was about to give a lecture in western New York. A bloodied Rushdie, 75, was flown to […]
2 hours ago
A view of the peninsula of Sirmione, on Garda lake, Italy, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. Lake Garda water ...
Associated Press

Italy’s Lake Garda shrinks to near-historic low amid drought

SIRMIONE Italy (AP) — Italy’s worst drought in decades has reduced Lake Garda, the country’s largest lake, to near its lowest level ever recorded, exposing swaths of previously underwater rocks and warming the water to temperatures that approach the average in the Caribbean Sea. Tourists flocking to the popular northern lake Friday for the start […]
2 hours ago
FILE - Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speaks before President Joe Biden signs the $1.2 trillion bipa...
Associated Press

Sinema took Wall Street money while killing tax on investors

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona Democrat who single-handedly thwarted her party’s longtime goal of raising taxes on wealthy investors, received nearly $1 million over the past year from private equity professionals, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists whose taxes would have increased under the plan. For years, Democrats have promised to raise […]
1 day ago
FILE- Internal Revenue Service taxes forms are seen on Feb. 13, 2019. The flagship climate change a...
Associated Press

Expanded IRS free-file system one step closer in Dems’ bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The flagship climate change and health care bill passed by Democrats and soon to be signed by President Joe Biden will bring U.S. taxpayers one step closer to a government-operated electronic free-file tax return system. It’s something lawmakers and advocates have been seeking for years. For many Americans, it’s frustrating that beyond […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, air force and naval aviation corps of ...
Associated Press

China sending fighter jets to Thailand for joint exercises

BANGKOK (AP) — The Chinese air force is sending fighter jets and bombers to Thailand for a joint exercise with the Thai military on Sunday. The training will include air support, strikes on ground targets and small- and large-scale troop deployment, the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement posted on its website. China’s expanding […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Opposition wins revote for governor in heartland of Chavismo