I invite you to take a look at the (one-sided) mudslinging that has already begun in Venezuela, less than a week after the Venezuelan opposition held a primary to pick their candidate to compete against incumbent President Hugo Chavez. Henrique Capriles was the clear winner of the primary, capturing more than two-thirds of the more than three million votes cast. However, the grandson of Polish Jewish immigrants who fled to Venezuela during World War II has not had any time to enjoy his victory. It is important to note Capriles’ roots because of the personal nature of the attacks that have come against him. Less than forty-eight hours after the primary results had been tabulated the Chavez supporters and state-run media began their assault on Capriles.
It began with state media outlets calling Capriles a homosexual, alleging that he was caught having sex with another man in a car. Capriles and his spokespeople have denied the allegation, but let it be known that they would not be engaging in a negative campaign. Chavez supporters and media cronies have also attacked Capriles’ Jewish roots and alleged that he has links to fascists and white supremacist and Zionist groups. Capriles is a devout Catholic who was born and raised in Venezuela, but Chavez and his supporters have chosen to overlook this fact. They also have accused Capriles of being a puppet of the United States. After allowing his support base to begin the character assassination campaign, Chavez made his own person attack, referring to Capriles as a “low-life pig.”
If that is not enough to convince you that the negative campaigns in the United States are comparatively tame when placed on a larger spectrum, what would you say if I told you that Chavez is using the influence of the executive office to attack those who oppose him? The Chavez-friendly judicial system is also attempting to intimidate would-be opposition supporters. The Venezuelan Supreme Court ordered the opposition election board to halt the destruction of the lists of voters who participated in the opposition primary. Originally all of the parties agreed to destroy the lists in question, and opposition candidates claim that most of the ballots have been destroyed. Even so, this shows the lengths that the incumbent and his supporters will go to drag Capriles through the mud.
So the next time our pundits complain about negative ads and mud-slinging, let us take a step back and thank our lucky stars that we live in a truly democratic and free society, where there still tends to be (for the most part) a certain level of mutual respect and boundaries among candidates, parties, and their supporters.
– Max Rava
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