English | News | 12 marzo 2012

Venezuela’s Chavez on massive spending push to win poor voters (Reuters)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday he will be home from Cuba in a week and start radiation therapy for cancer that could leave him weakened ahead of his re-election bid on October 7.

Chatting for more than two hours in a televised address from Havana, where he is recovering from a third surgery to treat cancer in his pelvic area, Chavez seemed eager to show he is fully in command of the government despite his illness. […]

«In the coming weeks we will start the already announced phase of radiation therapy,» Chavez said wearing a windbreaker with the colors of the Venezuelan flag.

Since arriving in Cuba on February 24, Chavez has been firing off tweets, meeting with foreign leaders and phoning state TV, in what could be preparation for a triumphant homecoming. […]

Chavez linked up via satellite with his vice president and other ministers back in Venezuela presiding over the inaugurations of government projects, like a chicken farm jointly owned with an Argentine company.

He approved the issue of a bond in local currency for some $2.325 million due between 2015 and 2017 to spend in the agricultural sector with the participation of a government fund and state oil company PDVSA. According to analysts, those bonds will be bought by local banks to replace government-mandated quotas of agriculture sector loans, which banks have been struggling to meet.

Venezuela’s leftist government is on a massive spending push, funded by oil dollars from the coffers of South America’s largest crude exporter, to win over poor voters with popular welfare programs, including job training and new housing units.

The side effects from radiation may slow down Chavez’s gregarious on-the-street campaigning style – where he is known to meet with recipients of the state’s largess in person – just as he faces a formidable race against 39-year old opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

He may instead have to fall back on «virtual campaigning» through frequent Twitter posts, pre-recorded televised speeches and phone calls to state television. […]

Original article by Mica Rosenberg/Reuters (Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga and Mario Naranjo; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and Paul Simao)