Today, Venezuela’s presidential elections will determine if incumbent Hugo Chávez will govern the country for a third term, the completion of which would mark 20 consecutive years in office, or if Henrique Capriles Radonski will inaugurate a new chapter in Venezuelan history. Chávez stands upon a socialist platform of extensive social programmes funded in part by the nationally-run oil industry. Capriles characterises himself as “centre-left” and proposes free-market economic policies as well as social programmes.
The implications for Venezuela’s political future weigh on the minds of its neighbour to the south. Who do Argentines think will win? Who do they favour? What would Chávez’s re-election mean for Argentina? What kind of leader would Capriles be? There are few bland opinions on the matter.
Photos by Athena Feldshon
Alejandra Ariovich, 37, paediatrician, Buenos Aires
Chávez came to power because Venezuela has a history of corrupt presidents who cast aside a very important part of the Venezuelan population. Chávez has made mistakes but he’s also been right. He listened to a sector of the people, made interesting social policies, and on an international level, he’s made important policies within South America. At the moment, Capriles hasn’t thought through a model for the country; he’s only succeeded in opposing Chávez.
Daniel Belzer, 54, systems engineer, Buenos Aires
It seems to me like Latin America is copying [Chávez’s] model, a model that’s died across the world; it died in Cuba; it died in Russia; it died in Germany. They’re copying a model here that doesn’t have any possibility of success. The best thing that could happen to Latin America would be if Chávez loses. Venezuela has the fortune – that Argentina doesn’t: that Chávez has cancer and he doesn’t have much time left. Here, we haven’t been so lucky.
Rafael Mejía, 26, film student, El Salvador
It sucks. The people in Venezuela don’t have freedom because Chávez is a fucked up guy who wants to control his people. If he wins, it will mean the same thing it’s meant for years. Nothing will change. President Kirchner [sic] is becoming like him. From what I’ve heard, she wants a Venezuela/Argentina in which she’ll be president forever and ever. But I think the people are stronger; the masses can overcome him. We need peace!
Juan Fafian, 80, retired shopkeeper, Buenos Aires
Chávez is a very special character. I don’t like him very much; he’s too authoritarian, too crazy. Obviously there’s a big influence – not only an influence, a great agreement – between the government here and the government there. So if Chávez wins I don’t think the situation in Argentina would improve. But if the opposition wins, I think the Argentine government would find itself a little uncomfortable. You’d see a certain lack of trust, as much with him as here.
Esther Rivadeneira, 65, parapsychologist, Buenos Aires
I have all the hope in my heart that the opposition wins and that Chávez doesn’t. Venezuela is a beautiful country, but run by a terrible person. He’s dark. He wants to take control, to move the masses, to divide the poor and the powerful. No, no, no. And Mrs. Kirchner is Chávez’ daughter. If the other candidate wins, us Argentines will be even stronger to fight this woman who wants to run our lives and make her leave. Capriles, Capriles, Capriles, yes, yes, yes!