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.