Food scandal could hurt Chávez in elections

Nearly 6,500 candidates will battle it out for 165 congressional seats in the Sept. 26 election, and President Hugo Chávez supporters and foes are now focusing on winning over the undecided voters.

Chávez´s United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, needs a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, a new concept for the president as there are no opposition lawmakers in the present legislature since they resigned in protest of alleged irregularities in 2005 elections.

Now, the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, or MUD, is trying to win over the undecided.

“We have months and months of preparation for this moment,” said MUD spokesman Enrique Mendoza, who said the party will start street demonstrations to win new voters.

The MUD made headlines in late May when it pointed fingers at the Chávez administration for thousands of tons of spoiled food that was discovered in government facilities.

Some 70,000 metric tons of meat, pork and chick, milk and dairy products, flour, sugar and salt, among other products, were allegedly imported by a government food agency and abandoned in ports around the country.

William Ojeda, the social issues coordinator of the MUD, called it “a crime against the neediest and a mockery of those who are living in the poorest conditions.”

He called it “the greatest act of corruption in the history of this government.”

Chávez accused the MUD of using the issue to gain votes and said that “the Venezuelan oligarchy” was trying to hide the efforts of his socialist system.

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