Opponent disputes Chávez’s big lead in polls

Por Venezuela Real - 1 de Diciembre, 2006, 9:12, Categoría: Electorales

Phil Gunson in Caracas
Financial Times
November 29, 2006

With just days to go before Venezuela’s presidential election, President Hugo Chávez, Washington’s principal adversary in Latin America, is holding on to a strong lead among likely voters, according to a poll published by the US company Evans McDonough on Wednesday.

But many in the opposition refuse to believe that the president can win except by fraud, fuelling fears of possible street clashes with radical Chávez supporters after the results are announced.

The poll, of 2,000 registered voters in 20 of the country’s 24 states, was carried out by Venezuelan polling company 30.11 Consultores between November 19 and 25. It shows the president leading his only serious contender, the opposition “unity” candidate Manuel Rosales, by 57 points to 38. The margin of error is 2.16 per cent.

The result is in line with most other polls published in recent weeks. However, the opposition candidate – the centre-left governor of the western state of Zulia – has insisted that he is leading, and that the polls are seriously underestimating his level of support.

Some opposition hard-liners have claimed that polling companies have been bought off by the government, while others suggest that fear of reprisals by a regime with an avowed policy of denying jobs and ser-vices to opposition supporters has distorted the results.

Alejandro Peña Esclusa, leader of a small rightwing group called Solidarity Force, circulated via the internet a message claiming that polls giving Mr Chávez the lead were part of a government propaganda war.

“I’ve worked a lot in elections, in different countries,” said Carolina Bescansa, a political science professor from the Complutense University in Madrid. “But I’ve never seen anything like this.”

When a team led by Ms Bescansa published a series of polls giving similar results to those of the Evans McDonough survey, they were immediately accused by some opposition journalists of making false claims and of working for the Chávez government.

To make matters worse, a government-financed group called Journalists for the Truth published a paid advertisement exaggerating their results.

“They said the difference was 30 points, when we gave 20,” Ms Bescansa told the Miami Herald. “Things are so distorted by the media that you can’t trust anything. The only polls I believe are my own.”

César Zambrano, the vice-president of Journalists for the Truth, admitted that Ms Bescansa’s poll (field work for which was done by the Venezuelan polling company Veneopsa) did not support the 30-point claim.

“But as far as we’re concerned,” he said, “the support [for Chávez] is 70 per cent. That’s what we perceive in the street.” Mr Zambrano admitted the group’s paid advertisements in the press (including at least one full-colour, two-page spread) were subsidised by the Chávez government.

If Mr Rosales were to produce an upset, it would not be without precedent, however. In several recent elections in Latin America, most recently in Ecuador last weekend, pre-election polls have proved woefully inaccurate.

de la dirección del
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