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LATIN AMERICA

Venezuela’s ruling party chooses delegates to influential congress

President Nicolás Maduro seeks support for economic reform and a crackdown on dissidence

PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello is happy with the Sunday vote.
PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello is happy with the Sunday vote. EFE

Venezuela’s ruling party on Sunday voted to choose the delegates who will attend a congress later this month to decide on major issues of national interest.

Chief items on the agenda for the July 26-31 meeting are the potential changes to the government’s economic policy, and putting order among all the factions who consider themselves the true heirs of the vision of Hugo Chávez.

One of the issues that the former president left up in the air upon his death in March 2013 was how his movement’s ideological and bureaucratic legacy should be shared out.

Current president Nicolás Maduro, who was personally selected by Chávez as his successor, has used his state power to convene a new congress that will presumably elect him party president as well. Hugo Chávez set a precedent for simultaneously holding the party presidency and the state presidency.

There is no force capable of dividing the PSUV”

Diosdado Cabello, party vice-president

Maduro was also hoping that the heads of two allied factions, party vice-president Diosdado Cabello and economy minister Rafael Ramírez, would be overwhelmingly voted into positions of authority within the PSUV. On Monday, Cabello expressed satisfaction with the vote but said that turnout rates were still unknown.

But dissidents within the Chavista movement have criticized the government’s plans to adopt more pragmatic economic policies to save the struggling economy and end the shortages of basic consumer products. They claim that the Maduro administration is drifting towards capitalist orthodoxy.

These dissidents have also questioned the process by which the congress delegates were selected out of a little over 5,000 candidates. Maduro’s own son, the 24-year-old Nicolás Maduro Guerra, was a candidate to a delegate position.

Former leader Hugo Chávez set the precedent for simultaneously holding the party and the state presidency

Meanwhile, party officials are trying to put on a show of unity. In a press conference on Friday, Diosdado Cabello said that “there is no force capable of dividing the PSUV.”

Iris Varela, the minister for the penitentiary system, stated that party members’ duty when voting for their delegates was to “select fellow citizens who have proven their loyalty to the supreme commander and to the Bolivarian revolution.”

It is expected that Maduro will announce his economic-adjustment measures at the congress, which was initially scheduled to run for two days but has been since extended.

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