Who will govern Venezuela's states?
by Olivia Kroth
For the upcoming governors' elections on the 16th of December 2012, Venezuela's United Socialist Party (PSUV) has nominated some interesting personalities. If the suggested candidates are elected, the country will turn into a fortress, fortified against unwelcome foreign interference and intrusion.
Most of the Venezuelan federal states along the western border to Colombia will be governed by military men. The same is true for some of the states facing the Caribbean Sea, with the islands of Aruba and Curacao just a few kilometers away, where the ex-imperialists of North America have installed military bases.
The Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, with President Hugo Chávez at the helm, who is also the Commander of the Armed Forces, opted for seven governor candidates who are either active military men or have a military past.
The nominations are General Henry de Jesús Rangel Silva for the state of Trujillo, Francisco Javier Arias Cárdenas for Zulia, José Gregorio Vielma Mora for Táchira, Luis Ramón Reyes Reyes for Lara, Francisco José Ameliach Orta for Carabobo, Ramón Rodriguez Chacín for Guárico and Carlos José Mata Figueroa for Nueva Esparta.
Of the twelve new male PSUV candidates for governors' posts, seven will be military governors, if elected. This echoes former times in the Russian Empire, when the tsarist governors along Russia's southern border, reaching from Europe through Central Asia to the Far East, were military officers who installed General-Governorships to protect the Russian frontier.
The most prominent of the seven new military candidates in Venezuela is General Henry Rangel Silva. He served as Minister of Defense until recently, when PSUV nominated him for the governor's post in the state of Trujillo.
Henry de Jesús Rangel Silva was born in Santiago, Trujillo, in 1961. He graduated from the Military Academy in 1982, and has been one of Hugo Chávez' closest allies for the past 30 years. In 2005, he was named director of Venezuela's Intelligence and Security Services (Disip). In 2010, he was promoted to command the Venezuelan Armed Forces. Since January 2012, he has served as Minister of Defense.
A staunch Chavista, the general is noted for his absolute loyalty. "The Venezuelan Armed Forces are loyal to the socialist political project, headed by Hugo Chávez," he pronounced in an interview. The President trusts him and has called him a "worthy military man."
The state of Trujillo is a Chávez fief, where he received 64.10 percent of all votes in the last presidential elections. This small state with a size of 2.400 square kilometers is located in the western part of the country. It is populated by 766.000 inhabitants. The capital, Ciudad de Trujillo, was founded in 1557.
Trujillo lives from agriculture, mainly raising cattle. Bananas, coffee, corn, sugar cane and yucca are also grown. Mountainous Trujillo borders on Lake Maracaibo in the west, where the Cordillera of the Andes begins. The northern neighbors are the states of Zulia and Lara. For both states, PSUV has nominated military governors as well.
Francisco Javier Arias Cárdenas was born in San Juan de Colón, Táchira, on the 20th of November 1950. He is currently a Deputy for the state of Zulia at the National Assembly. Like General Rangel Silva, he studied at the Military Academy of Venezuela, where he graduated with a license in Military Art and Science in 1974.
From there, he went on to the University of the Andes (ULA) in Mérida to complete his studies of Political Sciences. In 2006, Francisco Arias Cárdenas served as Venezuelan Ambassador at the United Nations and supported the foundation of PSUV in 2007.
In the state of Zulia, Hugo Chávez was re-elected as President with 53.34 percent. The current governor belongs to the opposition. The state sends 13 opposition deputies to the National Assembly, only two of Zulia's deputies are members of PSUV, one of them being Francisco Arias Cárdenas. So he has to tackle quite a difficult situation as governor candidate.
In the west, Zulia borders on Colombia, from where Mossad agents were infiltrated into Venezuela to support the opposition's "Majunche" (Mediocre) during the presidential elections.
It is an open secret that they had a hand in the explosion of the Amuay refinery, state of Falcón, only a few days prior to the election date. This subversive action was supposed to destabilize the Bolivarian Government by striking at its economic heart, the oil industry.
In Zulia, 3.705.000 people live on 63.100 square kilometers, a densely populated territory. The capital is Maracaibo. The main economic resources are oil, natural gas, minerals and agriculture. In the north, Zulia faces the Caribbean Sea, in the east it borders on the state of Lara. Southern neighbors are the Andes states of Mérida and Táchira.
Táchira will be another difficult state to take for PSUV. It is one of the two states bordering Colombia, where Hugo Chávez did not win a majority of votes in October. He received 43.29 percent in Táchira, while the opposition candidate pocketed 56.24 percent.
PSUV chose the lawyer and military man, José Gregorio Vielma Mora, as governor candidate. He is a native of Táchira, born on the 26th of October 1964 in the capital city San Cristóbal and served as captain in the Venezuelan Army from 1983 to 1992.
After studying at the Liceo Militar Monsenor Jáuregui de la Grita, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Military Science, he pursued legal studies at the University Santa María and graduated as lawyer.
José Gregorio Vielma Mora continued with postgraduate studies, first in Management at the Catholic University Andrés Bello in Caracas, then in Public Relations at the International University of the Caribbean (CIDEC-CIU).
From 2000 to 2008, he served as Superintendent of the National Customs and Excise Administration (SENIAT). In this capacity, he helped the Bolivarian Government to recuperate customs duties with his two programs, "Plan Evasión Cero" (Zero Tax Evasion) and "Plan Contrabando Cero" (Zero Smuggling).
In the state of Lara, Luis Ramón Reyes Reyes is the designated PSUV governor candidate. He is a native of this state. In 1970, he joined the Venezuelan Air Force and studied at the Military Air Force School, where he received his license. Later he continued studying Administration in Barquisimeto, the capital city of Lara.
When Hugo Chávez became President of the Fifth Republic, he chose Luis Reyes Reyes as Minister of Infrastructure. From 2000 to 2008, he served two terms as Governor of Lara, then worked as Minister of "Despacho" between December 2008 and February 2010, taking care of the President's office.
He is remembered as a good governor in the state of Lara, where he had 120 health centers and three universities built in the eight years of his governance. Therefore he stands an excellent chance of being re-elected.
In the state of Lara, President Hugo Chávez received 51.65 percent of votes in October. It was a tight race. The current governor belongs to the opposition, who was not helpful at all.
Lara is a small Llanos (grassland) state with 19.800 square kilometers and 1.853.000 inhabitants. The capital is Barquisimeto. As in all Llanos states, people live from agriculture, raising cattle or producing coffee, fruits and vegetables. Lara is one of Venezuela's biggest producers of sugar cane.
Another military man is Francisco José Ameliach Orta, whom PSUV chose as governor candidate for the state of Carabobo. He was born in Valencia, Carabobo, on the 14th of June 1963. Francisco Ameliach graduated from the Military Academy in 1984.
He served in the Venezuelan Army until 1999, when he retired with the rank of Major. Currently, he is a Deputy for Carabobo at the National Assembly, over which he presided from 2003 to 2005. Francisco Ameliach is popular in Carabobo and should be able to win the next governance.
His family is well-known in his home state, as it has always been associated with sports. In the 1960s, Francisco Ameliach's maternal grandfather founded the Sports Institute Inter Barrios (IDIB). In 2005, he and his father created the Sports Foundation Orta Fabrega (Fundorfa) in Carabobo, according to the motto, "One sportsman more is one delinquent less."
Hugo Chávez was elected President with 54.49 percent of all votes in Carabobo. The current governor is from the opposition and shall be replaced by Francisco Ameliach. Carabobo is a north-eastern state, facing the Caribbean Sea. The capital is Valencia.
It is one of the smallest of Venezuelan states. With 4.650 square kilometers, it represents 0.5 percent of the national territory. The population is 2.246.000. Its name, "Carabobo," comes from the indigenous Arauca language, signifying "grassland" and "water." Carabobo is a center of indigenous culture around the Lake of Valencia.
The main industries are petro-chemistry, asphalt, cars, ceramics, nutrition, paper and textiles. There are also oil refineries, the biggest is El Palito. In the south, Carabobo borders on the Llanos states of Cojedes and Guárico.
For Guárico, one more military man, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, has been nominated as PSUV governor candidate. He was born in Santa Ana, Anzoátegui, and graduated at the Venezuelan Naval School.
Later he taught as professor of Naval Science and worked as area coordinator for strategic planning at the School of Administration Science. In 2002, he was chosen by President Chávez for his first term as Minister of Justice. In 2008, he served a second term in this capacity.
In the state of Guárico, Hugo Chávez obtained 64.31 percent in the presidential election, this state is a traditional Chávez fief. The size is 66.400 square kilometers, with San Juan de Los Morros as capital and a population 953.000 inhabitants. In the language of the Caribe Indios, "Guárico" means Cacique, Chief. The economy is agricultural, mainly cattle, as well as the production of corn and rice.
The seventh of the new military governor candidates is General Carlos José Mata Figuera, who shall govern the state of Nueva Esparta. He was born in Pedegrales, a small village on the Island of Margarita. Of his 51 years, 31 were spent in the Artillery of the Venezuelan Armed Forces.
In the insular state of Nueva Esparta, President Chávez received 51.02 percent of votes. The state consists of three Caribbean islands: Margarita, Coche and Cubagua, of which Margarita is the biggest and most populated island.
The current governor belongs to the opposition and has been giving President Chávez a hard time, working against his plans in every way. Furthermore, Margarita is full of Germans, who settled in the island in the 1980s and 1990s, buying up real estate cheaply and exploiting the local labor force with minimum wages.
Being used to the capitalist ways of the Fourth Republic, these Teutonic settlers believe that they must counteract President Chávez, ridiculing his socialist ideas with nasty comments in the German press and on their personal blogs.
Their main complaints are about shortages of electricity, shortages of jobs, bumps and holes in the roads, etc. All of this is written in abominable German, mixed with even more abominable Spanish, since they never learnt how to write properly.
Many of them are unemployed, with little or no income, since they belong to the uneducated classes of the Federal Republic of Germany. They moved to Venezuela with the mentality of gold-diggers, in the hope of being able to live it up in the Latin American Eldorado at the expense of the despised local population.
But their ideas of opening up an ice-cream kiosk, restaurant or night-bar have failed, since the market is saturated. The Bolivarian Government does not want the invasion of large hordes of tourists from Europe any more. Now the tourists come from the Venezuelan mainland, from the befriended countries of Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador or from Russia.
Furthermore, the Teutonic parasites have no chance of working as electricians, car repair mechanics, gardening "experts" or real estate agents, because the Venezuelans can do these jobs themselves.
Luckily for Venezuela, "realojamento" has begun. The Germans are being relocated, ending up back home where they came from. In the Federal Republic of Germany, they will enjoy smooth roads without bumps or holes, but the gasoline for their cars will cost them about ten times as much as it did in Venezuela.
Also they will get plenty of electricity day and night, but they will have to pay about five times more than in Venezuela. The beautiful sunshine all year round will be sorely missed, as they must pay expensive heating bills during the long, grey and depressing winter seasons. Oil costs a fortune in Europe these days, while Venezuela is bathing in cheap oil.
Finally, the local population of Isla Margarita will be able to recuperate their own land, when the foreign parasites are gone and the last stands of "Bratwurst" have been closed down. The locals will sigh with relief, carrying on with their lives the way they are accustomed to, without the derisive looks of the neo-colonialists who know everything better and best.
Anyhow, a new PSUV military Governor will do the state of Nueva Esparta a world of good. It is a small state with only 1.150 square kilometers and 402.000 inhabitants. The capital is La Asunción. The islands of this state are famous for their beautiful beaches and tropical climate. The main sources of income are tourism and fishery.
Newly nominated PSUV candidates are also campaigning in the four coastal states of Aragua, Miranda, Anzoátegui and Sucre, facing the Caribbean Sea, with beautiful beaches, one after the other, like pearls on a string. The easternmost state, Sucre, is located directly opposite of the three islands of Nueva Esparta.
For the state of Aragua, the Minister of Justice has been chosen by PSUV, a lawyer and criminologist by profession. Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah was born on the 12th of November 1974 in El Vigía, Mérida, a Moslem of Syrian origin. He graduated from the Liceo Militar Jáuregui in La Grita, Táchira, and studied Law at the University of the Andes (ULA) in Mérida.
In 2006/2007, he served as Deputy for the state of Mérida at the National Assembly. Since 2008, he has been Minister of Interior and Justice. In this capacity, he had 3.000 drug dealers arrested in 2010 and secured more than 42 tonnes of drugs in 2011. Tareck Al Aissami helped to found the National Bolivarian Police, an organization directly under his command.
Hugo Chávez won the presidential election with 59.03 percent in Aragua. It is a northern central state, with Maracay as capital city. The name stems from the Caribe language, meaning "palm tree." Some of Venezuela's most beautiful Caribbean beaches can be found here, Cata and Choroní, as well as the famous National Park Henri Pittier and Colonia Tovar, a quaint German settlement from the 19th century, featuring lovely, old timber frame houses.
Aragua is located in the center of Venezuela. With a size of 7.014 square kilometers and 3.991.000 inhabitants, it is the most populated state of the country. The citizens live from various industries, commerce and tourism.
The following three states to the east shall be governed by former professors, according to PSUV. The current Vice-President of the Republic, Elías Jaua, has been chosen for the state of Miranda.
He is certainly the one standing in the limelight, front row, because of his high position in the governmental hierarchy and because Miranda is the state where he is campaigning against the "Majunche," President Chávez' arch foe. In Miranda, President Chávez won the presidential election with 49.96 percent, his opponent received 49.52 percent.
Elías José Jaua Milano was born on the 17th of December 1969 in Caucagua, Miranda. He graduated with a degree in Sociology from the Central University of Venezuela in 1996, where he later received a post as professor, teaching Sociology. Elías Jaua served as Minister of Economy from 2003 to 2006. In 2010, he was nominated Vice-President by Hugo Chávez.
A staunch Chavista, Elías Jaua said, "The best governor for Miranda is the governor who can cooperate with the Bolivarian Government," referring to the long absences of the antagonizing opposition candidate from the state. Elías Jaua is sure that he will win, pointing out that the people in Miranda are tired of "Primero Justicia," the oppositional party clique, which has accumulated power in the hands of a few.
He says that the people of Miranda are also wary of a governor who always gives lame excuses for everything that went wrong, for everything that he did not achieve. According to Elías Jaua, people in Miranda do not want a failed ex-presidential candidate who lost the election. They want someone who will govern the state by implementing all of the public services and social missions offered by Hugo Chávez and his administration.
Of course, Elías Jaua also benefits from being a family man. He is campaigning with his wife, Natasha, and daughter, Natalia. The "Majunche," however, is single and childless, has never been married, a strong minus point in the eyes of the people with large families, who form the majority in this state. They probably cannot imagine that the opposition candidate will do much for them in the sector of family support, childcare or pre-schools.
Elías Jaua has been rubbing it in by pointing out that "Miranda needs a governor whose priority is the welfare of the people, someone who will not try to oust President Hugo Chávez, in order to be president himself." In addition, he accused the "Majunche" of abusing his position as a stepping stone for his career, calling him a capitalist marketing product, a showy façade with nothing behind it.
Elías Jaua has been campaigning in all 21 municipalities of Miranda, talking to youth and seniors, housewives, business people, shop keepers and workers. He knows that it will be crucial to win the governance of Miranda, the central and most important state of the country in many respects, although it has a rather small territory of 7.950 square kilometers.
The state is very densely populated with 3.028.965 citizens. Its capital is Los Teques. Miranda forms part of the capital region surrounding Caracas. The economy is based on commerce, industry and tourism, but also agriculture in the area of Barlovento. Miranda offers beautiful nature parks and beaches, in addition to the many historical houses of colonial times and other cultural points of interest.
The second ex-professor is Aristóbulo Istúriz Almeida, nominated for Anzoátegui. He was born on the 20th of December 1946 in Curiepe, Miranda. In 1965, he graduated with a license as teacher of primary education from the Experimental Institute of Teachers' Formation.
He continued with postgraduate studies and received his title as professor in 1974 from the Pedagogical Institute in Caracas, specializing in History and Social Sciences. He was Head of the Venezuelan Teachers' Federation (FVM) and of the Venezuelan Professors' Association (CPV) for many years. From 2001 to 2007, Aristóbulo Istúriz served as Minister of Education in the Bolivarian Government.
In the state of Anzoátegui, President Hugo Chávez won the election with 51.58 percent. The capital of this coastal state of the northeastern region is Barcelona. In Anzoátegui, 1.574.506 inhabitants live on a territory of 43.300 square kilometers.
It is rich in minerals, oil and natural gas. The state's largest oil refinery is located in Puerto La Cruz, on the Caribbean coast. The petro-chemical complex José Antonio Anzoátegui is one of the biggest in Latin America.
Other economic activities consist of agriculture and production of cars and building materials. Tourism also plays an important role. Anzoátegui owns lovely beaches in the Nature Park of Mochima, with a host of tropical islands: Islas Chimanas, Islas Borrachas and Islas Picúdas.
The third man in the professors' trio is Luis Augusto Acuna Cedeno, nominated by PSUV to be governor of Sucre. He was born on the 26th of May 1946 in Palenque, state of Sucre. After receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education in 1965, he went on to get a Master of Science degree in 1972 and a PhD in Canada.
Luis Acuno taught Physical Education at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) in Caracas. From 1992 to 1994, he worked as academic coordinator at the University of the East, and was head of the Physical Education department at this university between 1995 and 1998. From 2007 to 2010, he served as Minister of Secondary Education.
In the state of Sucre, President Chávez won with 60.23 percent in October. This easternmost Caribbean state of Venezuela, with the Peninsula of Paría, lies in close vicinity to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The state was named after the Venezuelan Marshall, Antonio José de Sucre.
The capital is Cumaná on the Caribbean Sea. In Sucre, 975.814 citizens live on 11.800 square kilometers. Their main sources of income are agriculture, fishery and tourism. A part of the beautiful National Park Mochima belongs to Sucre: Islas Caracas, Islas Arape, Isla Los Venados, Isla Larga, Isla Redonda and Isla Santa Ana.
With the last of the new governor candidate, we shall return to the Andes. Ramón Alexis Ramírez Márquez, a geographer by profession has been nominated by PSUV for the Andes state of Mérida. He was born on the 8th of September 1974 in Mérida, where he studied forestry and geography at the Colegio Nuestra Senora del Carmen in Santa Cruz de Mora.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and went on to the University of the Andes (ULA) in Mérida city, where he obtained his Master of Science degree in Forestry and Geography in 2004. Alexis Ramírez is a Deputy for Mérida at the National Assembly.
This young man, if elected, will face a tough job as Governor of Mérida. It is one of the two states where President Chávez lost the election to his opponent. He received only 48.45 percent in Merida.
It is certainly no coincidence that this fresh and new face was chosen for Mérida. He will be seconded by four elder statesmen on four sides: General Henry Rangel Silva in Trujillo, Francisco Arias Cárdenas in Zulia, José Vielma Mora in Táchira and Adán Chávez in Barinas, the president's elder brother who is currently governing the Chávez' home state and has been nominated again.
Mérida is a beautiful mountain state with the ten highest peaks of the Venezuelan Andes, including Pico Bolívar, almost 5.000 meters above sea level. Mérida is one of the touristic hot spots of the country, very popular with South American and European tourists alike. The capital, Ciudad de Mérida, is home of one of Venezuela's best universities, Universidad de los Andes (ULA).
The state has a size of 11.300 square kilometers, populated by 924.938 citizens, many of them are of indigenous origin. The principal economic activities are comprised of agriculture and tourism. Cattle, goats and sheep are raised in the many green valleys of this state,and there are trout farms as well.
What are the chances for PSUV? According to Oscar Schemel, director of the polling institute Hinterlaces, they look good. "Chavismo has a great opportunity in these regional elections. It could take over the states of Carabobo, Miranda, Nueva Esparta, Táchira and Zulia, formerly held by opposition governors," he opined.
"In regional elections, people tend to vote for the candidate who can offer them convenience and comfort. This is the Bolivarian Governor, who can offer them more hospitals and schools, new streets and roads, generally better infrastructure," Oscar Schemel explained.
"Efficiencia o nada" (efficiency or nothing) is the motto of President Chávez for this new term. All PSUV governor candidates have been sworn to implement the social missions of the Bolivarian Revolution, giving the people good health care and housing, more educational facilities, job opportunities, safety and security, generally a better quality of life and a bright outlook into the future.
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