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Venezuela: Rumbles in the PSUV; Big stakes in Nov. elections; 2.5 million take part in PSUV pre-selection; Candidates announced

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UPDATED: June 5

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Caracas on the Line - Rumbles in the PSUV

June 2, 2008 -- Fred Fuentes in Caracas reports on important struggles being played out within Venezuela's governing PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela). While President Chavez' power base is with the grassroots organisations, some of the entrenched bureaucrats and more conservative politicians are fighting off challenges from delegates representing these organisations. PSUV is currently going through a kind of pre-selection process, and the more conservative elements are using all kinds of dirty tricks to hang on to their influence within the party. Aired on LeftCast.

19.3Mb 128kbps mono 21:08 minutes


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Struggle in the PSUV -- `If the people don't stand firm, the right will screw it up!'

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Venezuela: Big stakes in November elections

By Kiraz Janicke & Federico Fuentes

Caracas, June 1, 2008 -- Following the December 2 constitutional reform referendum defeat — the first for the forces of the Bolivarian revolution since the election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 1998 — and facing popular discontent at the problems holding back the advance of the process of change, the pro-revolution forces face a big challenge in securing an overwhelming victory in the November regional elections in order not to lose ground to the US-backed opposition.

Chavez, who described the upcoming regional elections as “the most important in Venezuelan history”, outlined what is at stake: “Imagine if the opposition groups managed to win the mayor of the Capital District, the mayor of Caracas, the state of Miranda, the state of Carabobo, Zulia, Tachira, Anzoategui … the next step would be war, because they would come for me, once again we would be in the same situation as April 11" he said in reference to the April 2002 US-backed coup against the Chavez government.

Chavez’s list was no coincidence. Apart from being some of the most strategic states in terms of population and economic strength, they are also. along with Aragua, Lara, Merida and Nueva Esparta, states where the opposition won a majority in the constitutional reform referendum. If repeated in November, it could see the number of Chavista governors reduced from 21 out of 23 to 14.

Such a result would provide a strengthened opposition with a launching pad to intensify its campaign to remove Chavez through a recall referendum in 2010 — or through more violent means.

In this context, the democratic primaries held by the 5.7-million-strong United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) on June 1, to choose candidates for the November 23 regional elections for mayors and governors, are crucial for re-engaging and revitalising the grassroots of the Chavista movement to push the revolution forward.

Uphill battle

In the 2004 regional elections the Chavista alliance — at that time predominately comprised of the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR — Chavez’s then-party that has dissolved into the PSUV), Homeland For All (PPT), Podemos and the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) along with smaller organisations — won 20 of the 22 governorships up for election along with the mayor of the Capital District.

The Chavistas also won an overwhelming majority of the municipalities, as commentators talked of an electoral map painted red.

Opposition forces, demoralised by their crushing loss in the recall referendum on Chavez’s presidency in August 2004 and claiming fraud (although there was no evidence) and in large part abstained from the regional elections in November.

This time the situation is not as favourable for the revolutionary forces. Boosted by its victory in the December referendum, a recycled opposition — presenting itself as removed from the old, discredited parties — is attempting to run a united campaign (although public clashes over seats in opposition strongholds are increasing) and can count on a re-mobilised and confident supporter base.

They will also count on more moderate sectors from the Chavista camp that have broken with the revolution since 2004 as the process of change has radicalised — such as the social democratic Podemos. In 2004, Podemos was won two governorships.

The revolutionary forces were then in a period of ascendancy, having defeated three attempts to depose Chavez — April 2002 coup, December 2002-January 2003 bosses lockout and the 2004 recall referendum. Today the mood is different.

Discontent, demoralisation and demobilisation have impacted on the popular forces, as many blame bureaucracy and corruption for sabotaging the revolutionary process — undermining both the social gains and blocking genuine popular power.

Imperialist offensive

Venezuela’s elite opposition, backed by US imperialism, has been increasing its orientation toward the poor majority that make up Chavez’s support base — adopting a populist discourse, such as “we want to improve the missoins” (the government-funded social programs that are helping solve the problems of the poor) and “build more houses for the poor”.

It is seeking to take advantage of discontent to infiltrate the barrios through what it calls “popular networks”, which according to US-Venezuelan lawyer Eva Golinger, recieve money from the US government-funded USAID. These networks work to spread rumours, promote divisions among Chavistas and mobilise people against the government.

It can be expected that the opposition will employ the same tactics in the lead up to the elections that worked for them in the constitutional reform referendum, such as extra-parliamentary destabilisation — including violent protests and economic sabotage — combined with a virulent campaign of media manipulation and lies to create a climate of crisis and ungovernability.

A renewed offensive by US imperialism to isolate the Chavez government internationally is adding to the internal pressure. The US has attempted to link the Chavez government with “terrorism” based on the supposed documents found on the laptops retrieved from the site of the illegal military assault by Colombia (the US’s key ally in the region)on a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Venezuela has categorically rejected the allegations.

Despite claims by the US and Colombian governments that an Interpol investigation into the laptop backs up the charges, the Interpol report states on page 9 that, “The verification of the eight seized FARC computer exhibits by Interpol does not imply the validation of the accuracy of the user files, the validation of any country’s interpretation of the user files or the validation of the source of the user files.”

In addition, the US navy has decided to reactivate, after 58 years, its Fourth Fleet to patrol Latin American waters, and on May 16, Colombian troops were intercepted inside the Venezuelan border. On May 17, a US warplane was caught violating Venezuelan airspace.

Internal struggle

On top of all this, internal divisions between the “endogenous” (internal) right-wing of Chavismo, which doesn’t want to break with capitalism, and the more radical grassroots pushing the deepen the process of change and especially extend direct democracy to empower the poor are becoming increasingly exposed.

Since its was launched last year, the PSUV has become a battleground between these sectors, reflecting the conflicting class interests within the Bolivarian movement. This dynamic is playing out in the primary elections.

While the June 1 internal elections, which are open to all members of the PSUV, represent an historic landmark in the Bolivarian revolution — for the first time allowing the grassroots to participate in the selection of candidates — struggles over the form and content of this process have not been absent.

Sources within the PSUV told Green Left Weekly that it was the rank and file, who in a general assembly on May 9, forced the national leadership to back down from an initial proposal whereby the local PSUV battalions would be able to suggest names that would then be tallied in order to come up with a list of 15, from which the national leadership would select the final candidate.

Under the alternative compromise proposal, which was approved, if no candidates receives either 50% plus one votes or a margin of more than 15% above the next candidate, then the national leadership, in consultation with Chavez, will select the candidate from the top three.

Importantly, Chavez announced that all the results of the internal elections will be made publicly available in order to allow greater transparency, and in doing so reversed a previous decision by the national leadership to keep the results secret.

A key example of the internal struggle is the controversy that erupted following the exclusion of the popular mayor of Torres Municipality, Julio Chavez (no relation to the president), from the list of pre-candidate nominations for governor of the state of Lara.

Sections of the national leadership had attempted to pressure Julio to stand down in favour of more conservative candidate Henri Falcon. Even though the mayor rejected the proposal, he was excluded from the list of pre-candidates released by the national leadership.

This prompted a rebellion among rank-and-file PSUV members in Lara, who saw Julio’s exclusion as a bureaucratic attempt by the national executive to override internal democracy and impose a candidate from above.

Hundreds of PSUV members mobilised spontaneously and surrounded the party’s regional headquarters on May 29 and 30, and in a play on Julio’s surname, chanted the famous slogan celebrating the defeat of the coup; “Uh ah, Chavez no se va! (Chavez is not going).

The PSUV national executive was forced to back down and reincorporated Julio onto the list of pre-candidates for governor of Lara. The president, who has repeatedly called for candidates to be selected democratically, telephoned the mayor directly to assure him that the situation had been corrected.

Julio, loathed by opposition sectors and particularly local business elites, is extremely popular among the poor for being the only mayor in Venezuela to have transferred control of the majority of the municipal budget directly to organised communities, and for implementing a process of radical transformation and democratisation of the entire governance system of his municipality.

The intervention by Chavez in defence of democracy, like his decision to nationalise the Sidor steel plant on April 9 after a long workers struggle there and the subsequent sacking of the right-wing labour minister, has boosted the morale of the rank and file.

Chavez has also pressured sectors tempted to flout the democratic decision of the party and stand as candidates outside of the PSUV: “Those that do not accept the results will be morally pulverised by the Bolivarian people.”

“What is important” Chavez argued, “is that we come out more united after June 1.” For this to happen, the mass participation of the ranks in the elections will be vital for consolidating the pro-revolution forces in the lead up to the regional elections.

Also key to the success of the Chavista forces is the strengthening of the Patriotic Alliance, which unites the PSUV with smaller pro-Chavez groups that haven’t joined the new party, such as the PPT and PCV.

However, frictions have emerged as the smaller parties have raised concerns about their exclusion from discussions on candidates and the platform on which to contest the elections.

With the PSUV still in formation and with important internal divisions, a yet to be solidified alliance with other groups and a significant layer of revolutionary activists who for a variety of reasons chose to remain outside the parties, there will be a serious need to push forward mobilise the broadest layers of the popular sectors.

Chavez has already called on each active member of the PSUV to work at mobilising a further five people — recalling the successful grassroots mobilising strategy used to win the 2004 recall referendum.

[Kiraz Janicke and Federico Fuentes are members of the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau. They are both featured speakers at the Resistance national conference in Sydney, June 27-29. Visit http://resistance.org.au for more information and to register.]

From International News, Green Left Weekly issue #753 4 June 2008.

 

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2.5 Million venezuelans participate in candidate selection of the United Socialist Party

Caracas, June 2, 2008, (venezuelanalysis.com) – In a massive show of support for the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), on Sunday, some 2.5 million party members participated in an historic process of electing candidates for the upcoming regional elections in November. Polling was extended to 9 pm in the majority of states as thousands of PSUV members queued to exercise their right to vote in the elections which were monitored by the National Electoral Council (CNE).

“It doubled our initial expectations, the participation has been massive, much more than what we had hoped for,” PSUV national executive member Vanessa Davies announced to a press conference at 11:30 pm Sunday night.

“We are happy and proud of our members. We have complied with the requirements of elections by the grassroots. We have followed through with the people and the Constitution,” she added.

The Bolivarian Constitution adopted through popular referendum in 1999 requires all political parties to hold democratic elections for leadership positions and candidates. So far the PSUV is the only political party in Venezuela to meet this requirement.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who cast his vote at the Manuel Antonio Fajardo Technical School in Barrio 23 de Enero, classified the PSUV elections as “truly historic” and “without precedent in the political history of Venezuela.”

“This internal process has impacted on the entire country and the collective morale… It is a grand example of how to construct true democracy, with debates and discussion, with some problems, but a great capacity to overcome these,” Chavez said.

He called on “all political parties, in the revolutionary camp as well as in the opposition and any other political movement,” to follow the example of the PSUV. “Follow the example, in order to comply with the constitution and with what the people want,” he said.

However, the president argued, a revolutionary party cannot have winning elections as its only objective, “The objective is to ensure the permanence and advance of the revolution.”

In this sense Chavez called for a “war to death” against corruption, against cronyism, bureaucratism and inefficiency and for the re-launch of the Socialist Plan, which he initiated at the beginning of 2007.

“We need mayors and governors who will undertake the task, together with the people, to work for the construction of socialism from below…on every street corner, every municipality, in every state,” he emphasized

Those pre-candidates who obtained at least 50 percent plus one votes, or 15 percent more votes than the second highest pre-candidate, passed over to automatically be the official PSUV candidates in the regional elections.

The results released by the CNE showed those candidates automatically elected include, Aristobulo Istúriz in the Capital District of Greater Caracas, with 94.47% of the votes, Tarek William Saab in Anzoátegui, (48.79%), Rafael Isea in Aragua, (64.51%), Adán Chávez (the President’s brother) in Barinas, (90.88%), Francisco Rangel Gómez in Bolívar, (47.3% - above Manuel Arciniega, who obtained 19.29%), Mario Silva García in Carabobo, (61.15%), Estela Mariña in Falcón, (48.51% - above Melvin López Hidalgo with 28.41%)

Henry Falcón with 73% also defeated Julio Chavez (21%) in Lara, Marcos Díaz Orellana won in Mérida, (60.67%), Diosdado Cabello in Miranda, (81.97%), Giancarlo Di Martino in Zulia, (58.58%), Jorge Luis García Carneiro in Vargas, (40,26% - above Freddy Bernal with 20.61%), José Gregorio Briceño in Monagas (62.87%), and Lizeta Hernández in Delta Amacuro with (49.87- above Amado Heredia with 21.96%).

With less than 60 percent of the votes scrutinized, Wilmar Castro Soteldo appears to have won in Portuguesa, (52.21%), Jorge Rodríguez in the municipality of Libertador, (74.2%) and Jesse Chacón in the municipality of Sucre, (82.64%).

In line with a decision by a national assembly of PSUV delegates on May 9, in those eight states where no pre-candidate achieved a majority or the required winning margin, the national leadership of the PSUV will select a candidate from the top three based on a range of criteria, including “revolutionary commitment” and “ethics.” The results of these deliberations are expected to be released before Thursday.

In Nueva Esparta the top three pre-candidates were Alexis Navarro, William Fariñas and Arnaldo Cogorno; in Tachira - Leonardo Salcedo, José Gregorio Vielma Mora and Francisco Arias Cardenas;Yaracuy - Julio César León, Braulio Alvarez and José León Gutiérrez; Trujillo - Octaviano Mejía, Hugo Cabezas and William Martorelly; Apure -
Jesus Alberto Aguilarte, Cristóbal Jiménez and Wilfredo González; Cojedes - José Gonzalo Mujica, Teodoro Bolívar and Ramón Peralta; Guarico - Willian Lara, Lenny Manuitt and Juan Montenegro and in Sucre - Enrique José Maestre, Felix Rodríguez, and Yonny Patiño.

As thousands of PSUV members celebrated Sunday night in Cuartel San Carlos in Caracas, Jorge Rodríguez warned the opposition and “the lackeys of imperialism here in Venezuela” that they had better get ready for the November elections because, “We’re going all out to win the local and regional spaces.”

Poll: Chavez Supported by 57% of Venezuelans

According to the results of a recent survey by private opposition-oriented polling firm, Keller & Associates, the pro-Chavez movement counts on 57% support nationally. The same poll showed 28% support for a united opposition.

The results were announced by journalist José Vicente Rangel on Sunday during his weekly program “José Vicente Today” on private television station Televen.

Keller & Associates is a firm with a “known anti-Chavez position,” Rangel said.
Other surveys carried out by the same firm over the past week indicate that support for “Chavismo” is growing throughout the whole country, while support for opposition is declining he added.
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United Socialist Party of Venezuela Presents Final Candidate List for Regional Elections

Caracas, June 5, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) announced its full list of candidates Wednesday, for the upcoming state and local elections on November 23, based on the outcome of internal elections on June 1 in which some 2.5 million members of the party went to the polls to choose candidates for 22 governors and 328 mayors.

Under the regulations adopted by a national assembly of PSUV delegates, those pre-candidates who obtained at least 50 percent plus one votes, or 15 percent more votes than the next highest pre-candidate, were automatically nominated as party candidates. In those cases where none of the pre-candidates met the requirements, the national leadership selected the candidate out of the top three pre-candidates. In 8 states and 134 municipalities, none of the pre-candidates met the requirement for automatic nomination.

National Assembly President Cilia Flores, speaking on behalf of the PSUV national leadership, announced those candidates selected for the contested states and municipalities.

In the state of Apure, Jesús Alberto Aguilarte Gámez was selected; in Cojedes: Teodoro Venancio Bolívar Caballer; in Guárico: Willian Rafael Lara; Nueva Esparta: William Ramón Fariñas; Sucre: Enrique José Maestre; Táchira: Leonardo Alí Salcedo Ramírez; Trujillo: Hugo César Cabezas Bracamonte; and for Yaracuy: Julio César León Heredia.

The full results of the PSUV’s internal elections for governors and mayors can be found on the National Electoral Council’s (CNE) website, www.cne.gob.ve.

While the internal party nomination process, which was monitored by 62 international observers, in large part occurred in a climate of normality, polling was marred in some instances by reports of some pre-candidates wielding undue influence in order to determine the outcome of the vote.

For instance, a dispute has flared up in Guarico, where the current governor Eduardo Manuitt, has rejected the selection of William Lara as the gubernatorial candidate, arguing “it is necessary to look for a candidate of consensus…evidently William Lara does not represent this.”

Lara, who obtained 43.01% of the vote, narrowly beat Lenny Manuitt, daughter of the governor and deputy in the legislative council in that state, who obtained 40.01%, according to the CNE, indicating a margin of only 2,484 votes between them.

Eduardo Manuitt, who is under investigation for assaulting a mayor, claims that he was not allowed place observers in the polling booths. However, an anonymous PSUV member told venezuelanalysis.com that the Manuitts had carried out a “dirty campaign”, including the distribution of free household appliances, in an effort to influence the vote.

It was also reported in January this year that Manuitt ordered local police to physically break up a PSUV meeting during which the majority of members were alleged to have supported Lara’s candidacy for governor.

Meanwhile, in the state of Falcón, grassroots PSUV activists have alleged that intimidation and vote buying was used in the campaign of candidate-elect Estela Mariña Montilla, wife of the current governor Willam Montilla, who openly supported the opposition military coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002.

According to a June 4 article in Venezuelan daily El Nacional, PSUV activists in the state of Bolivar, where incumbent governor Francisco Rangel Gomez (associated with the right-wing of “Chavismo”), won the party pre-selection, have also made allegations of fraud, including the theft of 1,300 ballots.

Despite these problems, Luis Mora, a PSUV member in Sucre municipality in the state of Miranda, argued that the elections on June 1 were an “exercise in participatory democracy.”

He pointed out that the PSUV was the only political party in Venezuela to meet the constitutional requirement to hold internal elections for candidacies and national leadership positions and called on the opposition parties to follow the example of the PSUV.

Thus far, all opposition parties have refused to hold internal elections.

The opposition has also criticised the PSUV internal elections process arguing that public institutions such as the CNE and state television station VTV were utilised.

William Lara, head of the PSUV’s electoral commission, countered that the party had been billed 17 million bolivars by the CNE for facilitating the elections and that it is paying it back in instalments.

Tibisay Lucena, president of the CNE, reiterated the constitutional requirement to hold elections and assured that the national electoral body is willing to facilitate internal elections for all political parties.

Communications and Information Minister Andrés Izarra also responded, saying all political parties could make use of the state media within the framework of the constitution. VTV would be willing to broadcast internal debates and elections of opposition parties he assured.

However, Izarra considered it unlikely that the opposition parties would take up the offer “because they don’t have the strength or support to carry out a democratic election like this.”

Despite this assertion, Izarra repeated the call for the opposition to follow the example of the PSUV and allow their members to participate. “We have seen that the members of Democratic Action are calling for participation…Members of Democratic Action: liberate yourselves from the yoke of Henry Ramos Allup! [Unelected leader of AD] Liberate yourselves! Participate! Hold primaries! Elect your nacional leadership!” he said.

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Chávez Gives Ultimatum to Socialist Allies

Chávez Gives Ultimatum to Socialist Allies as Venezuelan Elections Approach

President Chávez said the parties in the Patriotic Alliance will "disappear" if they try to run their own candidates.
President Chávez said the parties in the Patriotic Alliance will "disappear" if they try to run their own candidates.
Mérida, July 29, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who is also the president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), gave a one-week ultimatum to the rest of the parties in the pro-Bolivarian Revolution coalition known as the Patriotic Alliance to decide whether they will unite behind PSUV candidates in the regional and local elections scheduled for November 23rd.

“If this week you have not come to an agreement, leave me alone with my [PSUV] candidates,” Chávez told the coalition members, which include Fatherland for All (PPT), the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), the Electoral Movement of the People (MEP), the United Party of Venezuela (UPV), the Youth Party (PJ), and smaller regional parties.

Vowing never to give into the “blackmail” of those who say the revolutionary parties are divided, the president dared his allies to replace their “diatribes and declarations” with decisive action and run their own candidates.

“You will disappear!” he told them, pointing out that they lack the base of support that the PSUV mobilized through its unprecedented primary elections last June, in which 2.5 million members voted. He said the PSUV, which is by far the largest party in the coalition but has not attended coalition meetings for five weeks, “doesn’t need” the other parties’ support.

“If [the PSUV] had left you alone, there would never have been a revolution here! Never!” Chávez told his allies.

The president also asserted that some members of the Patriotic Alliance have been “disloyal” by supporting candidates who did not win in the PSUV primaries and planning to capitalize on Chávez’s losses.

“In the end, the leaders simply never recognized and will never recognize my leadership. They have other projects: Chavismo without Chávez,” said the president.

In response to the ultimatum, leaders of the PCV and PPT reaffirmed their support for Chávez as the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, but maintained their intention to run separate candidates at a critical distance from the PSUV in some states.

“We will accompany you whether you like it or not, because inexorably history has made us walk the common path that is socialism,” PPT General Secretary José Albornoz told Chávez.

However, Albornoz said the process of selecting candidates has been “one-sided” because the PPT is supporting 13 PSUV candidates for governor and 100 for mayor, while the PSUV “does not support us in any place.” Albornoz demanded that Patriotic Alliance members be treated as “co-authors” of the revolution rather than subordinates.

Similarly, PCV General Secretary Oscar Figuera assured that his party “will continue in the Patriotic Alliance, because we are revolutionaries and we have a commitment to the Venezuelan People.”

However, the PCV “does not depend on governors and mayors for its existence,” and the alliance should be “strategic,” not purely election-based, said Figuera.

Thus, “if we do not arrive at an agreement when we discuss the issue of candidacies, no problem...it will be the People who determine which is the option,” Figuera asserted Monday.

The PCV leader also criticized the nascent PSUV for being “a poly-class party, where the contradictions get deeper and deeper.” In some states, the PSUV candidates “obey the interests of economic groups that act like delinquents” Figuera said.

“In order to be able to really advance in a revolutionary direction… we ratify our candidates where the PCV has presented them,” concluded Figuera.

The PSUV invited both the PCV and the PPT, which Chávez called “micro-parties,” to a crucial meeting Tuesday evening to define their alliance before August 5th, which is the deadline to announce official candidacies to Venezuela’s 23 governor’s offices and 342 mayor’s offices.

According to a recent poll carried out in 9 major Venezuelan cities by the Venezuelan Data Analysis Institute (IVAD), 28.2% of voters sympathize with the PSUV, while PPT garners 3.8% support. Among opposition parties, which are also amidst negotiations of unified candidacies, Justice First (PJ) commands 4.7% support, A New Era (UNT) and Democratic Action (AD) both have 3.8%, and 1.5% of voters sympathize with the Christian Democrats (COPEI).

The first Vice President of the PSUV, Alberto Muller Rojas, who spearheaded candidate negotiations within the Patriotic Alliance last June, commented Monday that the PSUV “cannot break the structure that we have set up on the basis of participation,” referring to the internal party elections, and replace this with “negotiations among leadership cliques.”

Regarding the PCV and PPT, Muller lamented, “They say things, but they do not do things,” and said their public “attacks” are an “attempt to divide the popular movement.”

In the opinion of Gonzalo Gómez, a PSUV leader in Caracas and co-founder of the popular online revolutionary forum Aporrea.org, the PSUV is indisputably the most effective political organization in support of the Bolivarian Revolution.  

“The life of the Venezuelan Left passes through the PSUV,” said Gómez in an interview with Aporrea. “Patriotic Alliance parties honestly support the revolutionary process, but are not representative of the new, the original, revolutionary impulse of President Chávez.”

Gómez added that while the PSUV may harbor bureaucratic and reformist tendencies within its ranks, it is also home to more leftist “ideological currents” which are in line with the PPT and PCV, but which do not “fall into self-referred vanguardism” like those parties do.

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