By Deisy Buitrago
BARINAS, Venezuela Jan 9 (Reuters) – The state of Barinas, in western Venezuela and a bastion of the ruling party as the birthplace of former President Hugo Chávez, elected its governor on Sunday in a new clash with opponents.
The state, one of 23 in the South American country, has been governed for two decades by the Chávez family, but in November, when the regional elections were held, surprisingly the ruling party did not achieve victory in its main trench and the election was repeated by order of the highest court.
Since then, the ruling party has devoted all its efforts to mobilize the population, including the delivery of bags of food at subsidized prices, the supply of gasoline, among others, as denounced by non-governmental groups and opponents of the misuse of State resources. .
The result of the new election, however, will not alter the socialist party’s control over most of the governorates, but could be a symbolic victory for the fractured opposition.
In the November elections, the ruling party won 19 of the 23 governorships, although its vote fell to 3.9 million, according to figures from the National Electoral Council (CNE), compared to the 5.9 million votes it obtained in the elections. regional elections of 2017, generating alarm signals in the ranks of Chavismo.
The repetition of the election in Barinas, a remote and impoverished agricultural state, is due to a Supreme Court ruling, seen by the opposition as close to the government, which ordered new elections after it disqualified Freddy Superlano, the November opposition candidate, alleging that he had pending administrative investigations.
The ruling party then appointed former Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, a 48-year-old internationalist, as a candidate for governor for a four-year term, a position he disputes with the opposition, Sergio Garrido, a 54-year-old Social Democratic political veteran.
After voting at a center called the Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías Bolivarian High School, Arreaza told reporters that if he won, he promised to speak with all the social sectors of Barinas, including the opposition, as well as to reactivate a refinery that used to operate in the state and a sugar mill, in addition to resuming the cultivation of sugarcane.
“Thank God the people of Barinas responded, the people of Barinas are going out to vote and tonight there will be a party and joy. Today the same result of November 21, but with much more force,” Garrido told reporters after voting.
Some 500 polling stations, where some 600,000 voters are registered, will be open until 6 in the afternoon. There is no international observation in these elections.
The main government leaders such as the vice president of the party, Diosdado Cabello, and two of the three daughters of the late president have accompanied Arreaza. Opposition leaders from the four main political organizations have been alongside Garrido.
From very early in the voting centers of the state capital there were people in line waiting to vote, according to Reuters witnesses.
“Venezuela and, above all, Barinas needs a new direction,” José Paredes, a 66-year-old retiree, said in line at the high school. “We need Barinas (…) to get out of this quagmire we’re in,” he added, referring to the problems that afflict that town and Venezuela, such as the lack of water, electricity and gas supply for cooking.
Freddy Curapa, a 52-year-old social worker, said that Arreaza “is going to support Barinas to move it forward (…) That is the man we want here in Barinas, that the ´revolution´ returns to the state again because it is very decayed. Barinas “.
(Report by Deisy Buitrago in Barinas. Mayela Armas and Vivian Sequera edition.)