In Venezuela's October 7 presidential elections, the candidate leading the polls — President Hugo Chavez — is standing on a platform of pushing a socialist transformation.
Leaked documents show his main opponent, Henri Capriles Radonski, has a neoliberal agenda. But publicly he presents himself as a social democrat who supports pro-poor policies such as the Chavez government's health and education social programs.
Luis Hernandez Navarro wrote in the September 23 Guardian: “In Venezuela, to be a rightist is out of fashion.”
“As is shown in several opinion polls,” he writes, “Venezuela has given birth to a new political culture where the socialist ideal is widely accepted. Half the population agrees with the idea of building a socialist country, against 29% who oppose it.”
Hernandez Navarro pointed out: “The strength of this new political culture, and of the strides towards social inclusion made by the Bolivarian government, make things quite difficult for Capriles … He can't oppose this ideal in public without damaging his chances of victory.”
On the other side, Chavez is standing for a drastic deepening of the process of change — in a context where, despite the changes, huge sections of the economy and state remain under the control of big business.