Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Female power for Venezuela's governors elections

By Olivia Kroth

After the successful presidential elections which re-instated President Hugo Chávez for a new term in the Miraflores Palaces of Caracas from 2012 to 2019, now PSUV, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, is preparing the upcoming elections of state governors on the 16th of December 2012.

This is a very important election date for the country, because the governors will shape the politics in the 24 states according to the Bolivarian Government's programme, if they belong to PSUV, but will try to undermine it, if they work for the opposition.

Therefore, a great reshuffling of candidates has begun. Some of the former PSUV governors will be replaced by others, and new ones will attempt to take over the states that were in opposition hands before.

It is not really surprising that more women are coming up to the front. President Chávez is obviously impressed by Venezuela's female power. He suggested quite a few interesting women to occupy governors' seats, if the ladies can convince voters that they are well suited for the post.

The Bolivarian Government has named female governors as candidates for five states: Amazonas, Cojedes, Delta Amacuro, Falcón and Monagas. Two of the women already governing have been nominated again, since they did an excellent job and are a sure bet for re-election: Dr. Lizeta Hernández in Delta Amacuro and Stella Lugo in Falcón.

Delta Amacuro voted for President Hugo Chávez in the recent presidential elections with 65.20 percent, which is 10 percent more than the final result of 55 percent in all of Venezuela.  Delta Amacuro is a Chávez fief, due to many factors, one of them being Dr. Lizeta Hernández Abchi, a true Chavista, who governed Delta Amacuro very well and did everything she could to help Hugo Chávez win a maximum of votes in her state.  

Delta Amacuro is located in the eastern part of the country, comprising a large part of the Orinoco Delta. The size of the state amounts to 40.200 square kilometres, much of it is water. 

The Orinoco Delta, an ecosystem of about 300 branches, forms numerous small islands, such as Isla Cocuina, Isla Mariusa, Isla Redonda and Isla Tobjuma, to name just four of the bigger ones. The main arm of the Orinoco River, Río Grande, is navigable for big ships going to the Atlantic Ocean. 

The delta is home to the Warao people, an ethnic tribe that has been living in this part of the world for thousands of years. They are water people, living in stilted houses above water level, and going fishing in long, sleek canoes.

The capital is Tucupita. The 167.000 inhabitants of Delta Amacuro mostly live from agriculture, fishery and work in the oil refineries.  

Dr. Lizeta Hernández Abchi, nicknamed "Lisecita," was born in Tucupita on the 13th of December 1967.  Her father, Dr. Simplicio Hernández, is a previous state governor.  Her mother, Lizeta Abchi de Hernández, stems from Lebanese immigrants.

"Lisecita" studied medicine at the University of the Andes (ULA) in Mérida, where she specialized as a surgeon. In this capacity, she worked in the hospital of her home town, Tucupita, and in her private surgery ptactice. 

In 2005, Dr. Lizeta Hernández was appointed health director in the regional government. In 2008, she was nominated by PSUV as candidate for the post as governor of Delta Amacuro and got elected with 55 percent of all votes. Due to her excellent administrative abilities, she has been nominated again for the upcoming elections.  

"Forward with discipline" is her motto. For her next term (2012-2016), the governor of Delta Amacuro promised "an internal revision" to make her good administration still better. "Venezuela needs us all, today more than ever," she emphasizes. "We must call for unity, not for individualism or anarchy. This is an ideological battle which we must win."

Dr. Lizeta Hernández Abchi names as her three keys for success, "organization, motivation and mobilisation." About the President, she has got this to say: "Hugo Chávez is the man who works for those that were previously excluded, the poor and the forgotten people. This is why he will remain in our hearts forever."

Another woman is campaigning for her second term as governor, Stella Marina Lugo Betancourt, in the state of Falcón, where Hugo Chávez received 55.35 percent of votes on the 7th of October, despite the fact that the opposition, with the help of CIA and Mossad, tried to destabilize the Bolivarian Government by causing a terrible explosion and fire in the refinery of Amuay. 

The state of Falcón lies in the northwest of Venezuela, facing the Caribbean Sea. It is a densely populated territory, with one million people living on 24.800 square kilometres. Its capital is Coro, founded in 1527. Falcón is home of the Arahuaco tribe. One of their former chiefs, Cacique Coriana, gave his name to the city of Coro.    

The main source of income is the oil refineries on the Peninsula of Paraguaná, which is also popular with tourists because of its beautiful beaches, ideal for wind surfing, and the Medanos de Coro, a sand dune desert. The oil refineries of Amuay and Cardón produce 940.000 daily barrels each, which represents 75 percent of Venezuela's total oil refining capacity. 

Other sources of income for the inhabitants of Falcón are agriculture and fishery. Falcón is Venezuela's main producer of coconuts. There are 20.000 hectares of coconut palm tree plantations. The state is the second-largest producer for onions and peppers, the third largest for milk. Falcon's fishery yields about 30.500 tonnes of fish each year. The main fishing ports are Las Piedras, Carirubana, Puerto Cumarabo, Zazárida, Chichiriviche and La Vela de Coro.

Because of its very dry, desert-like climate, the Peninsula of Paraguaná also possesses five natural salines and 220.000 hectares which are apt for the construction of artificial salines.

This economically important state has been governed successfully by Stella Lugo, a staunch Chavista, since 2008. She was nominated again by PSUV, and is now campaigning as candidate for the next term.

Stella Marina Lugo Betancourt is a native of Falcón. Her father, Pacomio Lugo, was an administrator and military man. Her mother, Gladys de Lugo, worked as a teacher for 37 years. Stella Lugo studied public accounting at the University of Zulia and received her degree in 1995. As Governor of Falcón, she has been very active in the defence of human rights, especially on behalf of women and children.

She created the state council for children's and adolescents' rights in Falcón, as well as the children's home "Los Luneritos" for problematic youngsters who need special attention. She also promoted the institution of the Women's Bank of Development in Falcón and founded the regional institute for women, over which she presides. 

The institute gives social assistance and offers job training to women. It has 2.500 encounter points, spread all over the region, where women can meet and plan new professional or social projects together.

Governor Stella Lugo helped the plan "Ropero y Libro Escolar Negra Matea" to create 250 cooperatives for women, who work in the confection of school uniforms. The project is named after "Negra Matea," the black woman who was the Liberator Simón Bolívar's nurse. 

With the help of President Hugo Chávez, Governor Stella Lugo had a home for mistreated women constructed, as well as 11 homes for adolescent single mothers and their babies. These homes are named "Mamá Pancha," Mother Earth. 

In addition, Governor Stella Lugo founded the integral prevention center Dr. Raúl Gonzáles Castro, which attends to children and adolescents with drug problems, and the nutrition center, Adelia Calvani, which takes care of undernourished children. 

These are just a few of her numerous good deeds. She assisted and supported a host of organizations and institutions in the social sector, especially geared to the female part of the population and their offspring, for which she received many decorations from the Bolivarian Government.

She was bestowed the following orders and medals: Josefa Camejo, Monsenor Francisco José Iturriza, Monsenor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Argelia Laya, Sol al Vecino, José María Gil, Ciudad Santa Ana de Coro, Capitán de Fregata Felipe Baptista, Heroínas Venezolanas and Alí Primera. 

Stella Marino Lugo Betancourt belongs to the most decorated women of Venezuelan society. Because of her numerous feats and her apt governorship, she will surely be re-elected for the next term, at least by the female part of Falcón, which is over 50 percent, but certainly many men will vote for her, too, because of her intellectual capacities and human valour. The people of Falcón describe her as a highly humane personality, with a great sense of solidarity, a person who combines tenacity with tolerance.    

In the state of Monagas, things have not been going so well. The current governor, José Gregorio Briceno, nicknamed "El Gato" (The Cat), won his seat on a PSUV ticket, but turned into a backstabbing traitor and was expelled from the party this spring. 

In Monagas, Hugo Chávez received 58.33 percent of votes in the presidential elections. That is good, but could have been better, when considering the fact that Monagas has traditionally been Chavista land. Now PSUV has nominated Yelitze Santaella as new candidate for the state of Monagas.

Monagas lies in the northeast of Venezuela, bordering the state of Delta Amacuro and the Atlantic Ocean in the east. It has a size of 28.900 square kilometres and 1.027.000 inhabitants. The capital is Maturín. The city owes its name to Cacique Maturín, a local indigenous chief who fought hard against the Spanish colonialists in 1718. 

For a long time, Monagas was considered to be a poor state. Since the discovery of the oil fields in the Faja del Orinoco, however, the economy of this state has been booming. Part of the Orinoco Oil Belt is located in Monagas.

The indigenous tribes of the Karina and Warao live along the Orinoco Basin. In the 19th and first half of the 20th century, many immigrants from Mediterranean countries settled in Monagas, mainly Italians, Portuguese, Spaniards, Lebanese and Syrians. 

Besides the oil fields, Monagas lives from agriculture. Bananas, cacao, coffee, corn and tobacco are cultivated here. There are also extensive plantations of Palma de Moriche (Palma Africana), whose leaves are used for the production of textiles and strings, its wood serves as building material.

The designated governor candidate for Monagas, Yelitze de Jesús Santaella Hernández (52), was born in Clavellina, a small village in the neighbouring state of Delta Amacuro. She stems from a family of farmers and studied to be a teacher. After graduating with a license for teaching, she continued her studies at the University Simón Rodríguez, where she received her Master's degree in orientation. 

Yelitze Santaella got involved with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela very early. She later served as PSUV Vice-President for the eastern region, as cashier for PSUV and as governor of her home state, Delta Amacuro. 

With reference to her Zodiac sign, she says, "I am a Leo, like Hugo Chávez. I like to govern, but I am also good at team work."  She is considered to be one of the most powerful women within the Socialist Party. 

As cashier, she was responsible for the PSUV election funds in the recent presidential elections. PSUV party members describe her as strong-willed. She generally gets what she wants.

Yelitze Santaella names two women as her idols: Indira Ghandi and Argelia Laya, an afro-descendent freedom fighter in her native state. "She went to the delta, armed the women's movements and marched with them. We can learn a lot from the Negra Argelia. Those are sweet memories", she affirms.

Her priorities for Monagas, if she is elected governor, will be the improvement of health services, streets and safety, she told her public in an interview of "Toda Venezuela," emitted by Venezolana de Televisión. 

Besides the improvement of local roads, interconnecting highways between the states of Monagas-Anzoátegui and Monagas-Delta Amacuro must be built.  She also pointed out that policemen need better pay. As governor, she will augment their salaries.  She wants to carry on with all of the social missions that President Hugo Chávez initiated. 

Furthermore, she wants to meet citizens in different cities and towns of Monagas, to hear what they have got to say. She will govern according to the wishes of the majority, she promised. In her eyes, unity is very important. "I will work for the integrity and union of the people in the state of Monagas," she emphasized.

Unity is also needed in the southernmost state, Amazonas, where the current governor shall be substituted by a woman, Nicia Maldonado. In the state of Amazonas, the presidential election results showed 53.49 percent for Hugo Chávez. 

Amazonas borders on Brazil in the south. Its 180.000 square kilometres, about 20 percent of the national territory, are inhabited by only 157.300 people, just 0.3 percent of the nation's population. Almost half is of indigenous origin, mainly Piora, Yanomami and Yekuana.

Amazonas is covered by jungle. The state has a hot and humid climate, with heavy tropical rains during the rainy seasons. The capital is Puerto Ayacucho.  Due to its scarce population, the state of Amazonas has only three Deputies in the National Assembly in Caracas. 

The economy is mainly agricultural, but tourism is developing fast. Riverboat rides on the Orinoco, watching the dense rainforests with exotic wildlife on its shores, have become more and more popular with adventurous tourists.

Due to the undisturbed habitat, the jungle is home to jaguars, pumas, various kinds of monkeys and beautiful birds. The native tribes sell their indigenous art, woven clothes and hammocks, self-made ceramics and musical instruments.

Nicia Maldonado, designated by PSUV to be the new governor, is of Yekuana origin. She was born in La Esmeralda, state of Amazonas, in 1970. When her father died, she was only twelve. She remembers him as a teacher and revolutionary. Carlos Maldonado was very active with politics in the village of his tribe.

Nicia Maldonado attended secondary school in Puerto Ayacucho, from there she went on to study integral education at the university. Today, she holds a postgraduate degree in ethnology, educational planning and evaluation.  

Nicia Maldonado served as President for CONIVE, the Indio's Council of Venezuela, and was elected Deputy for the southern region (Amazonas, Bolívar, Apure) at the National Assembly.  Since 2007, she has been Minister of Indigenous Affairs, a ministry created by President Hugo Chávez, who is of indigenous origin himself.

When Nicia Maldonado speaks about him to her people, she says, "We have only one Cacique.  Our Cacique is Hugo Chávez. He is our only authority."  She is known for being an unwavering Chavista, chiding the current governor of Amazonas for having betrayed the Bolivarian Government.   

Shortly before the presidential elections, not only the terrible explosion at the refinery of Amuay occurred, but also a strange story popped up, which could have been detrimental to the administration of President Chávez. The opposition media and the western mainstream media reported about some "Yanomami in the Amazonas jungle murdered by Brazilian gold miners."

The Government immediately sent a commission down to the state of Amazonas, headed by Nicia Maldonado. They visited all of the Yanomami communities, where nobody had ever heard of this strange rumour. None of them had been "murdered."  They were all alive and doing well, overjoyed to see the commission and greeting Nicia like a beloved sister.

Not a single word came from the current governor about this strange "murdering" business. Nobody knows whether he might have been involved in spreading the false rumour to undermine the Chávez administration.

Whatever it might be, his days as governor are counted. Nicia Maldonado is an energetic, upright, no-nonsense-woman. No falseness, no pretence.  She will be exactly the right person for the governor's post in Amazonas.

In the Llanos state of Cojedes, there will be some change as well. Cojedes has always been a Chávez fief. In the last presidential elections, he received 65.31 percent of votes here. 

Cojedes is a small state, a territory of 14.805 square kilometres with 300.300 inhabitants. The capital is San Carlos. Due to the wide stretches of grassland, raising cattle is the main agricultural activity. Cereal, sugar cane, potatoes and mango fruits are also cultivated in Cojedes.

PSUV nominated Erika del Valle Farías Pena as new governor candidate for this state. She is a native of Cojedes and has studied philosophy. A militant Chavista, she got involved with politics early in her life. 

She helped to found and form the "Frente Francisco de Miranda" (FFM), a Venezuelan youth organization modelled after the "Escuela de Luchadores Socialistas" (School of Socialist Fighters) in Cuba. As head of FFM, she travelled several times to La Havana in 2003/2004, to receive instructions and training. Since then, she has stayed in close contact with the Communist Party of Cuba.

FFM has existed for nine years, and is marching towards its tenth year, with 25.000 young members. It is an anti-imperialist organization, supporting the social missions of Hugo Chávez.  Its code of ethics names support of the Bolivarian Revolution, respect for the Bolivarian Constitution, combating discrimination, inequality and imperialism.   

FFM supports Latin American integration, the promotion of national identity and the formation of social revolutionary leaders. The motto of FFM is, "Comandante Chávez, at your order!"

Erika del Valle Farías Pena served as elected Deputy of Cojedes in the National Assembly and as Vice-President of PSUV in the Central Llanos. Furthermore, she was Minister of Alimentation in 2006. Her last post was Minister of "Despacho," leading the President's office.

She is considered to be the most leftist of the female governor candidates. Erika Farías has a frank and direct manner, always speaking her mind. "We need to know who our enemies are, and how our enemies' ideology expresses itself," she pronounced. Some people say that she sometimes carries a gun on her belt, hidden under a red flannel shirt.

Looking at the new female crew, we can see that the Bolivarian Government is set on supplanting former governors by reliable Chavistas, time-proven and loyal, people who can be neither bought nor swayed. 

Of course, the men's team of governor candidates is also undergoing great changes. This will be dealt with in another article. Please stay tuned...

Prepared for publication by:

Lisa Karpova