Venezue­lans elect 11 may­ors, 2 state gov­er­nors

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

CARA­CAS: An op­po­si­tion can­di­date won the may­or­ship of Venezuela's sec­ond­largest city of Mara­caibo Sun­day, claim­ing the big prize in re­gional elec­tions seen as a test of Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez's pop­u­lar­ity, ac­cord­ing to ini­tial re­sults.

Venezue­lans also elected gov­er­nors in two ru­ral states that have tra­di­tion­ally fa­vored pro-Chavez can­di­dates and may­ors in 10 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties be­sides Mara­caibo. Can­di­dates from Chavez's rul­ing party cap­tured 7 of the 11 may­or­ships and one state, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial re­sults re­leased by lo­cal elec­tion au­thor­i­ties.

But it was the Mara­caibo race that was the most-closely watched.

Evel­ing Trejo, the wife of for­mer Mara­caibo Mayor Manuel Rosales, de­feated proChavez can­di­date Gian Car­los Di Martino and sev­eral other lesser-known con­tenders on Sun­day, elec­tions of­fi­cials said. Trejo, a new­comer to pol­i­tics, won with 58.6 per­cent of the counted votes.

Her hus­band, Rosales, fled Venezuela last year af­ter pros­e­cu­tors brought cor­rup­tion-re­lated charges against him. Rosales, who de­nies any wrong­do­ing and claims the charges are po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, was granted asy­lum in Peru. Dur­ing the cam­paign, elec­tion of­fi­cials barred Trejo from us­ing posters bear­ing the im­age of her hus­band's face.

"I'm sure that from Lima, where he is, he should be happy and proud," Trejo said, re­fer­ring to her hus­band.

In the ru­ral state of Guarico, pro-Chavez can­di­date Luis Gal­lardo bested Car­los Pro­poseri, a lawyer backed by a coali­tion of op­po­si­tion par­ties, with 77.1 per­cent of the votes, elec­tion of­fi­cials said.

The re­sults late Sun­day were re­leased af­ter of­fi­cials said vot­ing trends showed an ir­re­versible out­come. Fi­nal re­sults are ex­pected by Mon­day.

In Ama­zonas state, Li­bo­rio Guarulla, a for­mer Chavez ally whose party broke ranks with the pres­i­dent ear­lier this year, got 51.1 per­cent of the votes to beat pro-Chavez can­di­date Edg­ildo Palau and six other con­tenders.

The elec­tions were viewed as a barom­e­ter of Chavez's pop­u­lar­ity at a time when he is fac­ing nu­mer­ous do­mes­tic woes, in­clud­ing a re­ces­sion cou­pled with dou­ble-digit in­fla­tion and ram­pant vi­o­lent crime that has made Venezuela into one of Latin Amer­ica's most dan­ger­ous coun­tries. An em­bo­dened op­po­si­tion is seek­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on these prob­lems.

The Na­tional Elec­toral Coun­cil de­cided to pro­ceed with the elec­tions de­spite tor­ren­tial rains and floods that have killed at least 34 peo­ple and forced more than 5,000 Venezue­lans from their homes. More than 90,000 peo­ple have taken refuge at hun­dreds of govern­ment shel­ters, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties. -Ap

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