Venezuela’s rul­ing party taps celeb can­di­dates to woo youth


At only 26 years of age, Je­sus Casanova has al­ready earned a de­gree in jour­nal­ism, is the owner of a South Amer­i­can swimming cham­pi­onship and last year was crowned Mis­ter Venezuela in this beauty-ob­sessed na­tion. Now he wants to add a new ti­tle to his achieve­ments: con­gress­man.

Along with a cadre of ath­letes, hip-hop artists and TV per­son­al­i­ties, Casanova is one of sev­eral mi­nor celebri­ties, most of them po­lit­i­cal novices, com­pet­ing Sun­day in pri­maries to se­lect can­di­dates for the rul­ing so­cial­ist party for De­cem­ber’s leg­isla­tive elec­tions.

An­a­lysts say Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro is count­ing on the fresh faces to court young, un­com­mit­ted vot­ers at a time when sup­port for his so­cial­ist ad­min­is­tra­tion is be­ing eroded by wide­spread short­ages and triple-digit in­fla­tion. His United So­cial­ist Party, or PSUV, has man­dated that half of its can­di­dates be un­der the age of 30 to match the de­mo­graph­ics of Venezuela’s 19 mil­lion vot­ers.

“The polls show it. Peo­ple want to see young, new faces, new projects and fresh ideas,” Casanova told The As­so­ci­ated Press as he wrapped up cam­paign­ing in the western city of Bari­nas.

More than 1,100 can­di­dates are com­pet­ing in Sun­day’s vote, from which 110 of the can­di­dates for the Na­tional Assem­bly’s 167 seats will emerge. The rest will be pro­posed by party lead­ers.

While there’s lit­tle po­lit­i­cally dis­tin­guish­ing those run­ning, turnout will be a key test of the PSUV’s elec­toral ma­chin­ery.

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