What’s the deal with Venezuelan presidential candidates and jumpsuits?

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CARACAS, Venezuela — I almost went to tonight’s press conference at the headquarters of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, which is sort of ridiculously named Comando Simón Bolívar, that he called at 7 p.m. Caracas time (7:30 p.m. EST) to talk about, presumably, serious issues in the election, and sober-minded issues revolving around Venezuelan democracy.

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I didn’t, because of my low proficiency in understanding spoken Spanish (I’m unfortunately one of those people who can read, and even speak, foreign languages much easier than I can comprehend them).

But there he is… clad in an Adidas jumpsuit in the three colors of the Venezuelan flag. In 24 hours, he could conceivably be the president of a country of nearly 30 million people, and he’s not in a suit. I realize there are perhaps anti-Western interpretations at play here (Chinese political leaders have chosen Western suits and ties, not always without controversy, instead of traditional Chinese style, and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (and many Iranians) famously eschews neckties as a symbol of the ‘decadent’ West.

Now, I hate to pick on Capriles. He’s fit, and he certain cuts a sharper figure in a jumpsuit than either Hugo Chávez or Nicolás Maduro, who, frankly looked pretty tacky when he showed up to pay his respects to Chávez (though not the funeral) in a jumpsuit:

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But really, it’s election eve. I’m honesty curious about how this started. Is it just Chávez’s influence in yet another aspect of Venezuelan political life? Retired Cuban president Fidel Castro appears often in jumpsuits, but he’s retired, and only made the sartorial switch while he was recuperating after health problems.

Tweeter mseguias suggests, I think correctly, that it makes candidates more approachable and it appeals to poorer voters and young people. But I don’t recall ever seeing former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a jumpsuit. Or former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet. Or Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. Or Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos. Or Peruvian president Ollanta Humala.

I may be wrong about this, of course, but it seems like a particularly Venezuelan phenomenon.

We should probably be happy that Chávez’s red beret didn’t take off, I suppose.

One thought on “What’s the deal with Venezuelan presidential candidates and jumpsuits?”

  1. Hello, I study Venezuela. I’ll give you my best answer.
    1) It shows they are down to Earth. For decades, Venezuelan politics was dominated by a few aristocratic families who went around wearing suits cummerbunds and riding white horses. This tactic was first used by Chavez to show he was a man of the people. Politics is a copycat profession, so now everyone is doing it.
    2) Those jumpsuits are identical to the ones worn by the world-famous Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, a huge source of national pride to ordinary Venezuelans. So there may be something in that, too.

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