Venezuelan Defence Minister Henry Rangel Silva has been announced as the United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) new candidate for Trujillo state in the upcoming state elections on 16 December.
The move was officially announced by PSUV Vice-President Diosdado Cabello in a press conference on Monday evening, and comes a day after the current PSUV governor for the Andean state, Hugo Cabezas, announced he was withdrawing his candidacy for re-election.
When Cabezas renounced his candidacy, he commenting to press that there had been some opposition to his postulation from within the Bolivarian camp. He said that in response to his naming for re-election, “some [different] groups had formed, and we don’t have the leadership that Chavez has to hold them all together”.
Cabezas went on to say that “we’re doing a job, not clinging to positions” and that he would support whichever candidate the PSUV designated in his place as “we don’t just switch sides when things don’t go our way. Here, we are revolutionaries wherever we are”.
The governor for Trujillo confirmed that he had met with Diosdado Cabello and Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday to share his reflections, where Cabezas emphasised to them the need for him to stand down to “preserve the revolution” in Trujillo state.
Maduro and Cabello both lauded Cabezas’ stance, with Maduro calling for public recognition his conduct, which "demonstrated humility, capacity for reflection, discipline, and loyalty to the comandante Chavez and the people of Trujillo”. Parties allied to the PSUV such as the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) and Homeland for All (PPT) also accepted the move.
Several pro-Chavez and opposition sources have interpreted the switch in candidate as a victory for the grassroots of the PSUV, as well as the coalition of allied parties and movements, the Grand Patriotic Pole (GPP).
Conservative newspaper El Universal has reported that some grassroots PSUV activists wanted a candidate for governor from Trujillo, with Henry Rangel Silva previously being mentioned as a possible alternative candidate.
Pro-government political analyst, Nicmer Evans, also argued via twitter that Cabezas’ decision was due to the “success of popular pressure from the PSUV grassroots;” and that Merida and Bolivar states were others in which the PSUV may change candidacies.
William Izarra, a political strategist for the Bolivarian movement, also stated through the social network that he believed "other rectifications like Trujillo are coming. Now the voice of the [grassroots] collectives carries stronger weight”.
The PSUV received criticism from the GPP and other activists for some of its candidates put forward for the regional state elections, where 23 governorships as well as local legislative councils will be elected. The naming of Cabezas was one of those that went against a list of recommended candidates sent to the PSUV by the GPP.
According to alternative news website Aporrea, sources from the PSUV have indicated that they are considering switching the PSUV candidate for Bolivar state, Francisco Rangel Gomez, who has been accused by grassroots organisations of undermining the worker control movement in the region.
Meanwhile, during a phone call to this evening’s PSUV press conference, Chavez ratified the PSUV candidate, Alexis Ramirez, for Merida, where the PCV is also set to run, Florencio Porras, a candidate who was previously PSUV governor for Merida 2004 – 2008.
“The candidate of the revolution, of socialism, is Alexis Ramirez,” said Chavez. “The candidacy of Porras isn’t socialist, it’s not a candidacy recognised by the socialist leadership,” he declared.
Henry Rangel Silva was appointed defence minister in January this year. He will now be replaced by the head of the admiralty, Diego Molero Bellavia, confirmed Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez this evening.