Venezuela votes for president Sunday. The controversial election comes amid an economic crisis – and cries of foul play from the opposition, which is boycotting the process.
CGTN’s Stephen Gibbs reports from Caracas.
“Come rain, thunder or lightning, there will be presidential elections in Venezuela”, President Maduro vowed last week.
He was right. Despite pleas, and warnings, from dozens of governments, including the United States, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Canada that the election will not be recognised, it is going ahead on Sunday.
Those that wanted it postponed include the country’s main opposition coalition, which argues that the conditions are not in place for a fair vote. Complaints include the fact that several opposition leaders have been barred from taking part, and the electoral council is widely seen as biased.
But Mr Maduro is not running unopposed.
His main rival is a former state governor, Henri Falcon. He promises to replace Venezuelan’s nearly worthless local currency with the US dollar.
Also standing is Javier Bertucci, an evangelical pastor with no political experience. He says it is time for a non-politician to rule the country.
But will people actually vote, or support the opposition boycott?
In Caracas on Saturday we came across a truck selling raw chicken in front of a shopping mall. There was a long queue outside. Word had spread that its products were cheaper than the supermarkets.
Some shoppers were planning to vote, others not.
“Because we live in a democratic country, you have to vote”, said Maria Elizabeth Rodriguez, 74.”Because if you want to remove or replace someone in power it’s with votes, right?”
Carlos Gonzalez, 64, said he had voted in every presidential election for the last four decades, but that this time he was abstaining. “My decision not to vote is to do with the lack of hope that doing so will solve the economic situation of the country”, he said. “That’s what we all want – that there is real work, real production that there is an end to this inflation.”
Venezuela’s prices are rising faster than anywhere in the world, doubling around once a month. One month’s state pension is not enough to buy two chickens.
Can the incumbent candidate – in such a situation – win an election, and serve six further years? President Maduro says he can do more than that. He says he intends to get 12 million votes, far more than even his popular predecessor, Hugo Chavez, ever managed.