Don't betray Chavez legacy, Venezuela leader warns days from vote

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 25, 2015 9:39 AM

By Alexandra Ulmer

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelans who vote against the ruling Socialists in the upcoming legislative elections will be betraying beloved late leader Hugo Chavez, his successor Nicolas Maduro warned.

Some supporters of the ruling "Chavista" movement have turned against the government due to shortages of basic goods ranging from milk to medicines, dizzying inflation, and violent crime wreaking havoc on their lives.

Polls show the opposition coalition has the best chance in 16 years of winning control of the 167-seat National Assembly, though the government has strong advantages in the geographical distribution of seats plus superior mobilization capacity.

"Whoever betrays the legacy of Chavez destroys himself," Maduro, the 53-year-old self-declared "son" of Chavez, roared late Tuesday night during a three-hour televised broadcast.

"You would end up alone, alone, alone!" he told a crowd of red-clad supporters during a song- and dance-filled event in the ranching state of Cojedes.

An opposition victory in the Dec. 6 vote, Maduro added, would put an end to Chavez's hallmark social welfare programs, including house giveaways and heavily subsidized food.

"We're a family," Maduro said, speaking under a picture of Chavez. "One can be annoyed for this or that ... But we're the big family of the socialist fatherland." He was flanked by First Lady Cilia Flores, who is running for a parliamentary seat in her home state of Cojedes.

Powerful Socialist Party No. 2, Diosdado Cabello, who is also president of the legislature, has also warned that an opposition win could bring a "conflict of powers" between the assembly and executive.

Maduro's adversaries say the panicked Socialist Party is reverting to scare tactics to cling to its legislative majority, and invoking the larger-than-life Chavez at every turn to keep loyalists in the fold.

"In the last 17 years, the authoritarian political project has replaced politics with bullying as its raison d'etre," the head of the Democratic Unity coalition, Jesus Torrealba, told Reuters this week.

(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Jeffrey Benkoe)