Tuesday marks the official start of Venezuela’s 10-day campaign ahead of the April 14 presidential election. The election will be a choice between interim President Nicolás Maduro and Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles—both of whom have been unofficially campaigning for weeks.
Maduro, Chávez’ political heir, has vowed to honor the late president’s socialist legacy and is campaigning on a spiritual message, committing to follow the steps of his “father.” This election poses a new challenge for chavismo, which for the first time will attempt to retain the presidency without the charismatic presence of its late leader.
Capriles, the candidate of the Coalition for Democratic Unity (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica—MUD), is basing his campaign on the premise that “Maduro is not Chávez.” He is associating Maduro with the country’s corrupt and unstable environment and is criticizing the government for having to implement two currency devaluations in less than 60 days.
Both candidates were expected to kick off their respective campaigns today in Barinas state, where Chávez was born in 1954. On Sunday, after Maduro accused Capriles of seeking to provoke violence by cheduling his first rally in the same state, Capriles announced that he would move the rally to Monagas state. He will campaign in Barinas on Wednesday. Capriles also joined thousands of his followers in a nighttime walk on Monday night to protest against violence and insecurity in Caracas.
In less than two weeks, 18.9 million Venezuelans are eligible to vote for a second time in six months. Although much has changed since Chávez’ victory in October, chavismo is still leading the polls. Local polling firms Datanalisis and Hinterlaces give Maduro a more than 10 percentage point lead over Capriles; other studies indicate that Capriles is trailing by a smaller gap than what was observed in the October presidential election.