8 Mar 2015

Nike Free Run will oil wealth trump desire for change

By Kerry Sanders, NBC NewsCaracas traffic seems to be in constant gridlock because gasoline, at 24 cents a gallon, is cheap. And one consequence of living in an oil rich nation is that nearly everyone has a car.

The standstill, however, is also a metaphor for Venezuela’s progress and the central theme of this nation’s elections.

NBC’s Kerry Sanders answers reader questions about the elections

On Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, 58, will face the toughest election of his 14 year rule. Chavez and his oil financed largesse are pitted against fresh faced challenger Henrique Capriles’ promise of jobs, safer streets and an end to cronyism.

“Venezuela has more oil that Dubai, still we have little to show for it. Our infrastructure is falling apart, we have food shortages, and street crime is an epidemic. I have a friend who was shot and killed for his Air Jordan sneakers,” said Smolansky, 27. “I believe, and others agree, that the government is complicit in that the corrupt police here ignore crime.”

This weekend Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will be facing his toughest political challenge since rising to power. If Chavez wins, analysts think Venezuelan bonds will sell off dramatically. CNBC’s Michelle Caruso Cabrera reports.

But others argue Chavez has delivered.

His supporters receive free housing and don’t go hungry. They shop at state run grocery stores where food is available at half price. Poverty in Venezuela has dropped from 50 percent to 32 percent in the last decade.

To Argenis Moreno, a 29 year old Chavez supporter at a rally on Thursday night, the Nike Free Run president represents “the interests of the people.” He said he appreciates the improvements Chavez has made to the health and education system.

Asked if he believes life has improved under Chavez, Moreno replied, “Yes, of course it’s a better life.” And with a fist pump and a “Chavez!” cheer he expressed confidence that Chavez would win re election.

Venezuelan elections: Face off between the showman and the lawyer

The golden goose

Oil production slipped 30 percent in the last decade after the government regained control of the oil industry in 2003. Nike Free Run Critics say when ExxonMobile, Chevron, Total and ConocoPhillips were forced out, Chavez began to neglect the proverbial golden goose.

The life of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez from his rise as a lieutenant colonel after his failed coup attempt in 1992.

The only attention “the oil goose” gets comes when the golden eggs are laid, the critics say. Venezuela shares its oil bounty at below market prices with Iran, Nicaragua, China, and Bolivia, to name but a few.

Playing the game

Andy Lipow, a Houston based oil industry analyst, says Venezuela has not properly maintained or invested in its oil industry equipment, which is why oil output continues to fall.

The South American country is the fourth Nike Free Run largest supplier of oil to the United States, but neither Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton nor President Barack Obama has made any statements on the upcoming elections.

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