'US encouraging Venezuela's opposition not to recognize election results'
The head of Latin American Studies at Middlesex University in
London believes other Latin American countries would not support
RT:What kind of a campaign is this going to be - will everyone play fair?
Dr Francisco Dominguez: I think it’s going to be quite intense but very short. The calendar is from the second until the 12th [of April]. And then 13th and, if nothing happens – 14th. Everybody will try to cover absolutely everything and it’s going to have clear distinction of political messages by the two candidates.
RT:Opposition leader Henrique Caprilles has already called the swearing-in of the acting president 'unconstitutional'. Does this have any sway over the electorate?
FD: The article 233 of the Constitution totally justifies what’s been done. It’s not only being vindicated in terms of the constitution itself, but also it’s been supported, and endorsed by the Supreme Court. There is no issue with that really.
RT:There are quite large shoes to fill - are any of the two main candidates on offer able to do that?
FD: I don’t think it’s possible to actually stay in the shoes of Chavez in the way he was. Venezuela without Chavez is not the same as Venezuela with Chavez. However, Nicolas Maduro demonstrates himself as a formidable communicator. He has his own person, he is able to use symbolic language, he enthuses the masses very well, he conveys a very good message, he is very acute politically. I think he is doing very well. That’s why he is leading in the polls.
RT:How much momentum has acting-leader Maduro gained on the wave of nationwide grief for Hugo Chavez?
FD: I am sure there is a little sentiment about it. Chavez was a figure of hatred in the international media. Now the population of Venezuela realize how much he was loved. It was two million actually that came out into the streets to give him a farewell. I think possibly it was the biggest demonstration in the history of the country. And any candidate would be foolish not to use it. However, the key point is the message Maduro is saying to them: do you want the continuation of what you had with him for 14 years, Improving it, perfecting it? Or do you want to get back to the fourth republic, which Capriles represents? The message in that sense is clear. That’s why Maduro is leading between 10 and 14 per cent in the polls.
RT:Chavez was also an important figure for the whole region - how will Latin America cope without him? Will his anti-U.S. legacy live on?
FD: Roberta Jacobson, the Assistant US Secretary of Hemispheric Affairs made a statement the other day saying she found it a little bit difficult that there will be fair elections in Venezuela, which is a very clear interference in internal affairs of a sovereign country. Jimmy Carter through of the Carter Center repeated several times that Venezuela had the best electoral system in the world. So, to indicate it by somebody senior in the US administration is encouraging the opposition not to recognize the elections. In that sense, for as long as the US remains interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela, there could be no base between the two of them. Before Roberta Jacobson made that statement Elías José Jaua, former Venezuelan Vice President, and senior people in the US administration were talking about normalizing relations which unfortunately stopped because of their interference. So, there is a possibility, but it depends very heavily on the Obama administration.
RT:The U.S. has been fighting to boost its influence in Latin America, but what does it have to offer?
FD: I think that Latin American countries are going to heavily support non-interference and most of the governments in Latin America identify with Maduro. Incidentally although Caprilles tries to present himself as a follower of [Luiz Inácio] Lula. Lula yesterday made a statement that he supports Nicolas Maduro as his candidate, so in that sense the Latin American countries are going to ensure through their own delegations that there is no interference and the process of elections in Venezuela is proper and as it should be.
[Latin American countries] have a lot of mechanisms of reaching the integration. I think the assertiveness regarding their sovereignty and collective independence is incredible. They have established the Union of South American nations, they have established the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which excludes the US and they're orienting themselves towards anybody who wants to do business with them without any preconditions. A great deal of that is with China but they are prepared to talk to anyone else and it seems to me that they are strong enough and feel strong enough to prevent any traditional interferences particularly by the US in the internal affairs of Latin American countries, which took place in the 20th century, and which I think are becoming more and more difficult in this century.