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Critics Say He Can’t Beat a Dictator. This Venezuelan Thinks He Can.

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“With what they’re paid now, you can’t even get people to show up to work,” he said.

Next, Mr. Falcón says, he would topple other tenets of the ruling party, such as price controls, which economists say have led to shortages by making items more costly to produce than to sell.

And in the meantime, Mr. Falcón says, he would release scores of political prisoners, while re-establishing ties to the United States.

It remains unclear how Mr. Falcón would govern, even if he does win and Mr. Maduro accepts the result.

The country’s military has been loyal to the president, who has given top leaders control over lucrative parts of the economy. And the ruling party still runs the Constituent Assembly, the body created to sideline the legislature and rewrite the Constitution.

Mr. Falcón says he’s willing to take that risk. On a recent day, he ticked off the miseries of his fellow citizens, offering each one as a reason to vote: “They are humble, poor people, people who have no food, people who have no medicine, people who have no services — the water is gone, the light is gone.”

Despite the obstacles, Mr. Falcón is counting on people like José Rodríguez, a 63-year-old pensioner whose monthly check does not cover the cost of food.

Mr. Rodríguez waited for Mr. Falcón at a gathering in Barquisimeto, where the presidential hopeful had first risen as a politician. It was a crowd of just 200, but Mr. Rodríguez had waited for three hours. There were few left in his home, he said: Both of his children had left the country, seeking jobs and food.


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