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Will Chavez's unfulfilled promises affect Sunday's election?

Worsening power outages, crumbling infrastructure, and other unfulfilled promises could impact Sunday's election to replace socialist President Hugo Chavez, who died last month.

A poster of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez hangs on an iron fence next to a government housing construction project in Valencia, Venezuela. About 2 million of Venezuela's 30 million people lack permanent homes. The government says it has built 370,500 homes and apartments over the past two years, and more than 3 million people applied for them.

Ramon Espinosa / AP

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It's just after nightfall and the power is out again in untold hundreds of thousands — probably millions — of Venezuelan homes. If the government knows how many, it's not saying. It hasn't issued reports on problems in the public power grid since 2010.

In Venezuela's third-largest city, Pedro Martinez dons a shirt for visitors drawn by the flicker of candles inside his one-story, cement-block house in a middle-class district. The Caribbean heat is sticky thick inside. A mesh hammock hangs by the front door.

"This happens nearly every day," Martinez says of the blackout, holding a candle close so a reporter can take notes. It's the day's second outage. The first struck just after noon.

It's been like this for five years, pretty much everywhere but Caracas, the capital. Worsening power outages, crumbling infrastructure and other unfulfilled promises witnessed this week in a trip through the country's industrial heartland could be an important factor in Sunday's election to replace socialist President Hugo Chavez, who died last month after a long battle with cancer.

His political heir, Nicolas Maduro, is favored to win, largely on the strength of Chavez's generous anti-poverty programs, which the late president emphasized over public works with one big exception: housing.


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