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Chavez' foes head for electoral gains

VHeadline.com remains 100% independent of all political factions in Venezuela and reposted this on their site. The orrigination is Reuters.

Some VHeadline.com readers have mistakenly alleged a serious bias in our pages against the United States of America. Since, undoubtedly, we owe no allegiance towards the United States, we can only comment that any such perception must stand for the individual reader. We have no quarrel with the good people of the United States and, in fact, a majority of our readers are indeed USA-based (latest figures: 92.7% in North America!).
VHeadline.com's editorial focus ... and therefore our allegiances and any implied bias ... is Venezuela and all things pertaining to this wonderful country in South America.
Venezuela political campaigns launched ... Chavez' foes head for electoral gains

Legislative vote test of Chavez support ahead of 2012

Opposition gains assured after boycott five years ago

Crime tops agenda as campaigns launched

Reuters: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his opponents launched campaigns on Wednesday for legislative elections that test the socialist's support after a year of recession and will give his critics a louder voice.

Buoyant Chavez supporters organized parties and fireworks around Caracas after midnight to kick off a race dominated by criticism of the government's record on tackling Venezuela's appalling murder rate.

"Let's go to battle!" Chavez' campaign chief Aristobulo Isturiz bellowed at one raucous nocturnal rally.

Struggling opposition parties are all but guaranteed gains in the September 26 vote after they boycotted the last election for lawmakers five years ago, leaving parliament in the major US oil supplier entirely in the hands of the President's allies.

The elections -- a barometer of backing for Chavez' policies ahead of a presidential vote in two years -- are also a chance for opponents to take back a little of the power he has accumulated over more than 11 years in office in the OPEC nation.

Despite sky-high crime and economic woes, the ex-soldier who has polarized Venezuela between supporters of his pro-poor policies and those who call him a dictator remains Venezuela's most popular politician.

Opposition parties have fielded unity candidates to increase their chances of denting Chavez' grip on parliament. They hope to capitalize on his relative weakness after months fighting crises such as electricity cuts and a scandal over rotting food that dragged his ratings below 50%. "This is his worst moment in 11 years," anti-Chavez newspaper editor Teodoro Petkoff said. "But his emotional link with a large sector of the nation remains very powerful."

Most analysts expect Chavez' socialist party to hold a reduced majority in the parliament, helped by changes to electoral districts that critics call gerrymandering. There is a slim chance the opposition will win the most seats, which would create headaches for Chavez and cause political instability. Their goal is to win at least a third of seats in the legislature, which would limit the ability of Chavez' socialist party to change major legislation.

CRIME AGENDA

Usually an expert at setting the political agenda, especially ahead of elections, Chavez seems to have been caught off balance by a campaign from opposition media to highlight the government's failure to tackle violent crime.

Venezuela has one of the world's highest murder rates with between 13,000 and 16,000 people killed last year according to leaked police numbers and a non-governmental watchdog, respectively. Already-high murder figures have soared since Chavez took office. Last week a court ordered two newspapers to desist from publishing violent pictures after they printed a gory archive photo of bodies piled up in a morgue. The government, which also responded angrily to a New York Times story comparing Venezuela violence to Iraq, says it is working hard to bring down crime and that a new national police force has slashed homicide rates in a Caracas pilot project.

A handful of lawmakers who defected from Chavez' ranks in 2007 are the opposition's only presence in the current national assembly parliament, which has given Chavez a legislative carte blanche since 2005. He has used that power to start remolding one of the continent's most Americanized nations as a socialist society, while expanding his sway over courts and other institutions.

Critics say the 56-year-old ally of Cuba is following his mentor Fidel Castro and installing an autocratic communist dictatorship in the baseball-mad nation studded with fast food restaurants and shopping malls.

Chavez, who has lost just one of over a dozen elections since 1998, says he is a democrat committed to freeing Venezuela from US "imperialism" and local oligarchs.

 http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews
/idAFN2317846020100825?sp=true

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' popularity falls according to latest polls

Wire Services: President Hugo Chavez' allies launched their campaigns Wednesday for crucial congressional elections that come just as recession, crime and inflation have pushed the socialist leader's popularity to a seven-year low.

A survey by the Venezuelan polling firm Consultores 21 indicates just 36% of Venezuelans approve of Chavez' performance, the lowest figure since 2003, when Chavez survived an opposition-led strike that devastated the economy, pollster Saul Cabrera said.

The results suggest Chavez allies could face a difficult struggle to keep control of the National Assembly in the September 26 election.

The survey of 1,500 people nationwide in late June and early July had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, said Cabrera, who is vice president of the polling firm. He said the poll was financed by a group of private businesses, which he declined to identify.

Chavez' popularity has suffered a decline of 12 percentage points over the past year and a half, Cabrera told The Associated Press.

Critics accuse Chavez' government of severe incompetence and corruption, and many people are unhappy that Venezuela's oil-driven economy remains in a recession while all other South American countries are seeing growth. Venezuela's inflation rate, at more than 30%, is the highest in Latin America. Cabrera said other problems such as unchecked violence also are contributing to disenchantment with the government.

The new poll indicates Chavez is still popular among the poorest segment of Venezuelans, garnering about 60% support in that group, but he no longer has a majority in the other four income categories, Cabrera said.

The pollster said that in spite of Chavez' low popularity level, the President remains a "formidable political competitor" against an opposition that -- while it has made some gains -- still has not shown sufficient strength to fully capitalize on the situation. Chavez, who is up for re-election in 2012, has warned his supporters that opposition control of the National Assembly would undo some of the government's efforts toward socialism.

The National Assembly has been predominantly pro-Chavez since the opposition boycotted legislative elections in 2005.

Opposition parties took to the streets along with Chavez supporters Wednesday as the election campaign officially began.

Several opposition candidates campaigning near the National Assembly building in downtown Caracas were scattered by National Guard troops who fired tear gas at them for purportedly causing a public disturbance. There were no injures or arrests reported.

 http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/
ALeqM5ineO86qjg0ALoP2esPQbJjn1J5tgD9HQT4HG0
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Some VHeadline.com readers have mistakenly alleged a serious bias in our pages against the United States of America. Since, undoubtedly, we owe no allegiance towards the United States, we can only comment that any such perception must stand for the individual reader. We have no quarrel with the good people of the United States and, in fact, a majority of our readers are indeed USA-based (latest figures: 92.7% in North America!).
VHeadline.com's editorial focus ... and therefore our allegiances and any implied bias ... is Venezuela and all things pertaining to this wonderful country in South America.

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Roy S. Carson
 Editor@VHeadline.com