Leftist party asserts independence from Venezuela’s president, accepts dissident into ranks

By Fabiola Sanchez, AP
Monday, March 15, 2010

Leftist party distances itself from Chavez

CARACAS, Venezuela — Representatives of a leftist party asserted their independence from President Hugo Chavez on Monday, accepting a dissident politician into their ranks while demanding increased tolerance from Venezuela’s socialist leader.

Jose Albornoz, secretary general of Fatherland For All, said the party continues to support Chavez, but its leaders want the socialist president to respect its decision to accept Lara state Gov. Henri Falcon as its newest member.

Chavez has harshly criticized Falcon for leaving his ruling party last month. Falcon is widely popular in Lara, where he served two consecutive terms as the mayor of the state’s capital and was elected governor by a comfortable margin in 2008.

“We ask for respect for our decisions,” Albornoz said.

Albornoz noted Fatherland For All hopes to reach agreements with Chavez’s party regarding candidacies ahead of crucial congressional elections in September, but its members are willing to field candidates “with or without alliances.”

Venezuela’s ruling party hopes to negotiate deals with other pro-government parties ahead of the elections to avoid fielding too many candidates, which could divide the pro-Chavez vote and give opposition parties an edge in some states.

Political analyst Ricardo Sucre said Falcon’s presence will strengthen Fatherland For All, which has been weakened in recent years as members deserted the party to join Chavez’s powerful political organization.

Sucre called Chavez’s criticism of Falcon “a bad move,” noting the governor enjoys a strong political following in Lara.

“Chavez is doing what he’s always done with politicians who he thinks could have a political future: He begins to discredit them,” Sucre said.

Chavez has repeatedly told his allies that an opposition victory in September’s elections would be a devastating blow to his efforts to transform Venezuela into a socialist state.

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