Opposition wins revote for governor in heartland of Chavismo

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Opposition candidate Sergio Garrido celebrates after ruling party candidate Jorge Arreaza admitted on social media his defeat in a governor election re-run in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chávez chose Garrido for governor in a special election called after the contender representing that faction in November's regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)© Provided by Associated Press Opposition candidate Sergio Garrido celebrates after ruling party candidate Jorge Arreaza admitted on social media his defeat in a governor election re-run in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chávez chose Garrido for governor in a special election called after the contender representing that faction in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)Voters in the state of Barinas on Sunday picked a candidate from the U.S.-backed opposition in a closely watched special election that was called after the contender representing that bloc in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count.

Opposition candidate Sergio Garrido celebrates after ruling party candidate Jorge Arreaza admitted on social media his defeat in a governor election re-run in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chávez chose Garrido for governor in a special election called after Freddy Superlano, second from left, was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count in November's regular contest (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)© Provided by Associated Press Opposition candidate Sergio Garrido celebrates after ruling party candidate Jorge Arreaza admitted on social media his defeat in a governor election re-run in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chávez chose Garrido for governor in a special election called after Freddy Superlano, second from left, was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count in November’s regular contest (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)Sergio Garrido got 55.4% of the vote, according to electoral authorities, defeating former foreign minister Jorge Arreaza, whose campaign drew ruling party heavy hitters in an all-out effort to keep the bastion of Chavismo under their control. The candidates campaigned for roughly five weeks after Venezuela’s highest court disqualified opposition candidate Freddy Superlano and the special contest was scheduled.

A woman votes during an election re-run to decide the governor in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again Sunday in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)© Provided by Associated Press A woman votes during an election re-run to decide the governor in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again Sunday in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)“This town of Barinas accepted the challenge democratically, and today, we managed to be the iconic state of all Venezuela,” Garrido said. ”… Today, the people of Barinas demonstrated that in unity and with the strength of all of you, they achieved it, they managed to overcome obstacles, we managed to overcome adversity.”

Superlano was disqualified Nov. 29 while he was ahead by less than a percentage point over incumbent Gov. Argenis Chávez, one of Hugo Chávez’s brothers. Superlano’s wife, who was chosen as his successor, was disqualified, too. So was her substitute.

Argenis Chávez resigned as governor following Superlano’s disqualification and did not enter the race in the special election, leaving the governor’s ballot free of a Chavez family member for the first time in more than two decades. The ruling party then chose Arreaza as its candidate.

In picking Arreaza, President Nicolas Maduro said the ruling party needed a new candidate “to go to the rescue.” The party rallied its base, urging unity, and even ended a gasoline rationing system that Barinas residents loathed. But it was enough for many people angry over a lack of basic services like gas, water and electricity, deficient health care services and hunger from food scarcity.

A man votes during an election re-run to decide the governor of Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November's regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)© Provided by Associated Press A man votes during an election re-run to decide the governor of Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)Arreaza conceded the contest Sunday evening before any results were announced by electoral officials.

“The information we received from our (ruling party) structures indicates that, although we increased in voting, we have not achieved the objective,” Arreaza tweeted. “I heartily thank our heroic militancy. We will continue to protect the people of Barinas from all areas.”

Before dawn Sunday, government leaders and ruling-party supporters had gathered in a rally, chanting, “Chávez lives, and in Barinas, the homeland continues!”

A voter checks a polling booths list during an election re-run to decide the governor in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Resident of the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again Sunday in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)© Provided by Associated Press A voter checks a polling booths list during an election re-run to decide the governor in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Resident of the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again Sunday in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)The significance of the election was not lost on voters.

“I feel in high spirits to participate again so we can finally move forward from this issue that began on Nov. 21,” Luisa Contreras, 70, said before entering a voting center.

Vote counts for the ruling party have been declining since 2017 across the country. About 6.5 million people voted for pro-government candidates during that year’s regional elections. On Nov. 21, that number dropped to about 3.7 million.

Jorge Arreaza, former foreign minister and ruling party candidate for governor of Barinas, speaks after voting in an election re-run in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again Sunday in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November's regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)© Provided by Associated Press Jorge Arreaza, former foreign minister and ruling party candidate for governor of Barinas, speaks after voting in an election re-run in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again Sunday in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)Venezuela’s high court, which is one of many government bodies seen as loyal to Maduro’s government, disqualified Superlano even though he had been given a presidential pardon that had made the candidate and other members of the opposition eligible to run in November’s regional elections.

Jorge Arreaza, former foreign minister and ruling party candidate for governor of Barinas, embraces supporters after voting in an election re-run in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again Sunday in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November's regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)© Provided by Associated Press Jorge Arreaza, former foreign minister and ruling party candidate for governor of Barinas, embraces supporters after voting in an election re-run in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again Sunday in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)The moves in Barinas raised further doubts about the fairness of Venezuela’s electoral system following the first vote in years in which most major political parties took part.

“Beautiful Barinas, where it started, ends,” opposition leader Juan Guaido tweeted Sunday night, referring to the cradle of Chavismo. “United we will defend the will of a powerful majority that will not surrender, nor will it, until we see democracy again in Venezuela.”

Opposition candidate Sergio Garrido celebrates after ruling party candidate Jorge Arreaza admitted on social media his defeat in a governor election re-run in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chávez chose Garrido for governor in a special election called after Freddy Superlano, second from left, was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count in November's regular contest (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)© Provided by Associated Press Opposition candidate Sergio Garrido celebrates after ruling party candidate Jorge Arreaza admitted on social media his defeat in a governor election re-run in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chávez chose Garrido for governor in a special election called after Freddy Superlano, second from left, was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count in November’s regular contest (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)November’s regional elections were monitored by over 130 observers from the European Union, the U.N. and the U.S.-based Carter Center.

A preliminary report from European Union observers concluded the contests were held under better conditions than other Venezuelan ballots in recent years but were still marred by “structural deficiencies,” including the disqualification of opposition contenders.

A voter wears a mask against the spread of the new coronavirus, with the design of the Venezuelan flag, as she waits outside a polling station after voting in an election re-run in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are voting again in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November's regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)© Provided by Associated Press A voter wears a mask against the spread of the new coronavirus, with the design of the Venezuelan flag, as she waits outside a polling station after voting in an election re-run in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are voting again in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)The EU team did not comment on the situation in Barinas, but a report from the Carter Center criticized the court’s intervention.

“There was also a general atmosphere of political repression, and more than 250 people are being held as political prisoners,” the center said. “The tribunal’s recent decision to suspend the tabulation of votes for the governorship of Barinas is another example of its interference in the electoral process.”

A woman votes during an election re-run to decide the governor in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November's regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)© Provided by Associated Press A woman votes during an election re-run to decide the governor in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)___

Garcia Cano reported from Mexico City.

A police officer gives instruction to voters that wait to enter a polling station during an election re-run to decide the governor in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Resident of the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November's regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)© Provided by Associated Press A police officer gives instruction to voters that wait to enter a polling station during an election re-run to decide the governor in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Resident of the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)Soldiers guard polling station during an election re-run to decide the governor in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again Sunday in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)© Provided by Associated Press Soldiers guard polling station during an election re-run to decide the governor in Barinas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Voters in the home state of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are voting again Sunday in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

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