Grave crisis drives election apathy
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s presidential candidates are making their last-minute pitches before Sunday’s election, though many people are hardly noticing as they struggle to find their next meal and pay for it with money that is next to worthless under runaway inflation.
Pausing on a bustling street to buy food, Vaceliza Villa didn’t pay attention to a noisy campaign marching through the heart of Caracas’ biggest slum, Petare. A woman with a megaphone urged residents to vote for one of President Nicolas Maduro’s challengers, who are looking to capitalize on growing social discontent.
“I really don’t care what happens on Sunday,” said Villa, 47, holding up her bag of raw chicken skins to feed herself and her 6-year-old daughter for the week.
After two decades of polarizing socialist rule, Venezuelans have grown accustomed to seeing entire highways filled with some of the world’s biggest political demonstrations, both in support and against the government. But despite impassioned pleas by the candidates, the current campaign seems almost sad by comparison and marked by apathy as mounting daily problems like shortages of everything from water to medicine go unresolved amid a grim economic crisis.
Polls suggest that turnout could be the lowest since the late Hugo Chavez was first elected president in 1998. The opposition’s main parties have called for a boycott because their leaders were barred from running, and legions of their supporters won’t vote after joining an unprecedented wave of 1 million Venezuelans who have fled the country in recent years.
Maduro’s main challenger, Henri Falcon, has drawn tiny crowds and scant media coverage in his crisscrossing of the country.
Many believe Falcon doesn’t stand a chance against well-oiled government machinery that will ensure Maduro’s re-election to a second six-year term.
President Nicolas Maduro holds a baby alongside first lady Cilia Flores, during a rally in Caracas.