Venezuela’s opposition denies it would scrap Chavez welfare aid

CARACAS,  (Reuters) – Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles denied on Wednesday accusations from acting President Nicolas Maduro that he would scrap popular welfare policies if he wins Sunday’s election.

Social “missions” in poor areas, from subsidized groceries to Cuban-staffed medical clinics, were a mainstay of the late Hugo Chavez’s 14-year socialist rule and kept his popularity high.

His chosen successor, Maduro, 50, says he is the guarantor of their continuation and accuses Capriles of planning to disband the missions and also privatize state oil company PDVSA, whose export revenues fund the projects.

That, said Capriles at a dawn campaign event, was nonsense and scaremongering. The 40-year-old state governor likes to show off his social record in Miranda state and describes himself as a “progressive,” but he is depicted by Maduro as a right-wing puppet of Venezuela’s wealthy elite and U.S. interests.

Rather than end the missions, Capriles said he would improve, expand and de-politicize them.

“Simply being Venezuelan will give people the right to free education, quality healthcare, social security and housing,” he said.

“In our plans there will be no blackmailing … People will not have to be members of a political party to get aid.”

Capriles, who has shown plenty of Chavez-style populist traits himself, listed his social policy plans from a 40 percent rise in the minimum wage to subsidized medicines.

“The government elite get annoyed because they want total control over the missions as if they belonged to them. They don’t understand they belong to Venezuelans, not those who put the red shirt on,” he added, referring to the color of the ruling Socialist Party.

“Don’t be deceived, the missions are not going to be ended. The government says that to cheat people and have control.”

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