Our endorsement for the Venezuelan presidential election


Venezuelans go to the polls on Sunday to choose between six more years of ‘chavismo’ or a new beginning. After years of non-competitive presidential elections since Hugo Chávez came to power, this is the first time an opposition candidate has a real chance to defeat the South American autocrat and his authoritarian regime. Chávez’s challenger, Henrique Capriles Radonski, was selected as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (or MUD as its Spanish acronym) in a February primary.  After years of division, opponents of the regime were finally able to put ideological differences aside and unite to defend what they all share in common: liberal democratic values, which have been constantly under attack by an authoritarian, illiberal regime prone to use fascist means to remain in power.


The MUD is a broad coalition that includes opposition parties from left, right and center, which, despite their differences, are united in their support for liberal democracy, the rule of law, human rights and individual freedom. The coalition’s program stresses the need to respect democratic institutions, preach tolerance and advance a centrist economic agenda that encourages private investment but also protects the safety net on which many Venezuelans depend. Mr. Capriles himself has said that his model would be the social democratic policies put in place by the Brazilian government, although he doesn’t hide his pro-enterprise instincts in a country that desperately needs them.


Under the Chávez regime, Venezuela has seen its inflation rate go through the roof, having now the highest inflation rate in the Western Hemisphere and one of the highest in the world. Besides this inflationary tax, which mostly affects those on lower incomes, the country is victim to constant blackouts due to a lack of investment in basic infrastructure and despite record oil prices during the last years. But the government’s ineffectiveness is not only seen on its handling of the economy. One of the major concerns most Venezuelans now have is the country’s record crime rate. Caracas, the country’s capital, has become one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and the government seems unable to contain the out-of-control crime wave.


Besides Chávez’s incompetence in handling the economy and crime, what really troubles those of us who believe in freedom is the regime’s constant violation of basic individual freedoms and human rights. Persecution of opposition leaders and dissident public employees (last week three opposition activists were killed by chavista sympathizers who shot them from a PDVSA –the state’s oil company– van); unlimited use of state resources for political propaganda, including daily interruptions of all broadcasts to transmit Chávez’s speeches; expropriations of private companies without compensation; currency controls; the use of the country’s Armed Forces as partisan armies; expropriation of critical media outlets and constant attacks on freedom of expression. And the list goes on and on. No believer in human rights and freedom, no matter what his or her ideology is, can support these fascist methods. Chavismo has long ceased to be a democratic participant in Venezuela. It has even ceased to be simply authoritarian to become fascist.  


That’s why this election is so important, not only for Venezuela or the Americas, but for the entire world. It’s not about capitalism vs. socialism. It’s not about left vs. right. It’s not about market economics vs. social democracy. This is about something larger. It’s about freedom (whichever way you understand this term) vs. fascism. And there’s no doubt where we stand here. We will always defend freedom and human dignity no matter where the attack to them comes from, far left or far right. Fascism is fascism, and it’s time to stop it at the ballot box in Venezuela tomorrow. That’s why we support Henrique Capriles Radonski for president of Venezuela.