POLITICS

Chavistas knock on doors, house by house, aiming to recover Venezuelans' support

Chavismo's popularity is crumbling in Venezuela. Recent polls show that the regime’s hard base of support is around 20 percent, and less than 30 percent approve the way President Nicolas Maduro is conducting the country.

These are the lowest numbers in the history of the movement, which is in power since 1999.

On the face of this, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV for its name in Spanish) has started organizing house by house visits and community meetings in the poorest areas with the task of repairing the government’s image.

“People are sick of politics because of the bad economic situation. Some believe the government is responsible, so the best weapon that PSUV has to change that is increase its populist message and hand out alms,” Oswaldo Ramírez, a Caracas-based political analyst, told Fox News Latino.  

Last Friday, PSUV’s nominated candidates for Congress in the fourth district of Miranda state headed a door to door visit in a Misión Vivienda neighborhood, a government-funded program in a low income segment in Filas de Mariches, in the east of Caracas.

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The first house they visited was Erik Omaña,’s home, a 4-year-old child who is paralyzed from the neck down. After the hugs and the chatter, incumbent candidate Blanca Eekhout told the parents they would be receiving an electronic wheelchair in the following hours.

Next was the house of Luis Hernández Rufo, a senior citizen who had been having trouble getting his pension pay. Eekhout immediately took out her phone out and called labor vice minister Néstor Ovalles, who vowed to solve the problem.

“This is the goal of the house by house. We enter a home and then we exit it with one less problem,” said Mirlis Hidalgo, another of the candidates, to Fox News Latino.

The “Casa por Casa” initiative is taking place in the midst of the primary campaign for the legislative election to be held on June 28, ahead of the Dec. 6 general vote.

A total of 1,162 PSUV candidates are running for the less than 100 nominations available – and to most of them the top priority is to rekindle the love affair with Chavismo, make ordinary Venezuelans believe in the revolution again.

“We have the political task of winning the National Assembly this year to prevent the fall of the revolution,” Eekhout said many times during her pilgrimage. “The only way to move forward is with the revolution,” she added.

While Eekhout and the other candidates were knocking on doors and stirring the neighborhood, a man with a megaphone remained a few steps ahead announcing the candidate’s presence.

“Only PSUV brings you this opportunity. Come and meet the candidates and tell them about your problems,” the man said over and over, reminding people too about the June 28 vote.

The house by house visits are scheduled in advance by the party, aided by neighborhood militants who keep a record of the main troubles and complaints -- they are the ones who suggest which doors to knock.

But Chavismo’s tactics go beyond giving alms and spreading its populist message; they also rely on pop culture. In last week’s campaign event, Antonio Álvarez, a former major leaguer from the Pittsburgh Pirates, a singer, and now also a candidate, was part of the one party visiting Filas de Mariches. His presence made the women excited.

“If you don’t have an escort I can be your body guard!” yelled one of the ladies. “Come visit my apartment!” said another, while a bunch of them waited in line for a photograph with the artist.

In other places, however, campaigning hasn’t been as smooth. Lesbia Sánchez, who is running in Caracas' fourth district, said that many people came to her with pressing concerns about the economic situation.

“I always give them the same answer,” she told FNL. “And it is that some groups are conspiring against the revolution and they are using the economy to bother people. The party, the government and the people have to be more united than ever before,” Sánchez added.

Franz von Bergen is a freelancer reporter living in Caracas.

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