Legon, Venezuela – Petra Mar a Rengifo’s shirts have become olitical. In a home with bare brick walls and a zinc roof, a 58-year-oldseamstress with short, curly hair is sewing shirts for a youngpolitician who she thinks has a good shot at unseating Hugo Ch vezas president of Venezuela. Rengifo works at one of the four sewing machines that are among thefew pieces of furniture in her concrete-floored home. Outsidesprawls Leg n, the ramshackle neighborhood of about 500 peoplebuilt along a highway in the countryside east of Caracas, identicalto countless other slums where millions of Venezuelans eke out aliving.
Rengifo might have stayed out of the public eye had it not been fora chance occurrence: One of the shirts made by the business thatshe supplies was picked up by an aide to opposition presidentialhopeful Henrique Capriles, and the candidate saw him wearing it. Now, Capriles wears almost nothing but Rengifo’s short-sleeved,collared shirts on the campaign trail as he tries to defeat Ch vezin the country’s Oct. 7 election. The shirts come in bright colorsand are made of a light, wrinkle-resistant fabric. She says she’s thankful that Capriles, as well as his campaignstaff and supporters, have brought in business.
In fact, thegarments she sews have become so popular among the candidate’ssupporters that they’re now called “the Capriles shirt.” “I feel proud that a candidate, a (possible) president puts on ashirt I’ve made,” Rengifo said, pressing her hands to her chest. In the big picture, she said, it’s also healthy for an economy thatrelies largely on imports. “It’s very good for things that are made in Venezuela to at leastbe sold, shown off,” she said. The surge of business has also helped Capriles win Rengifo’ssupport, although Ch vez’s political base still lies within thevery same segment of working class Venezuelans to which Rengifobelongs. She said she has never met the state governor but he seems to havethe interests of the poor at heart. Rolled Aluminum Plate
She’s grateful, for instance, that Capriles’ state governmentcontributed sheets of zinc to help her add on to her home. Othersin the neighborhood have also taken advantage of the state homeimprovement program to repair their homes. Rengifo said many of her neighbors feel they have been bypassed bythe social programs offered elsewhere by Ch vez’s government.Construction began on a school and some government-offered homesnearby, but the work wasn’t finished, she said. Her neighborhood is one of the many poor communities across thecountry where Capriles is trying to make inroads. So far, Capriles has been trailing in the polls, though surveyresults have varied widely. Aluminum Pipes Manufacturer
Some polls touted by the governmenthave given Ch vez a lead of more than 20 percentage points, whileothers indicate a smaller margin for the president. One recentsurvey said Ch vez led by about 4 percentage points. Rengifo said many in her neighborhood don’t identify strongly witheither political camp. They’re just the kind of uncommitted votersseen as key in the upcoming presidential vote. China Aluminium Composite Panels
Capriles has beencrisscrossing the country making door-to-door visits to try to wintheir support, in part by pledging to continue many of the aidprograms Ch vez began. And he has donned Rengifo’s shirts, often wearing several in a dayas he strides through towns in the sweltering heat. Capriles also has said he’s proud to be supporting a local businesswith his clothing choices. “My shirts are made in Venezuela, with the talent that this countryhas more than enough of,” Capriles said during one event. For his part, the 57-year-old Ch vez has been attacking his39-year-old rival by calling him a “rich kid” and accusing him ofrepresenting the interests of the wealthy.
Ch vez’s critics,meanwhile, slam the president for his occasional use of designersuits and watches. Rengifo said it was pure serendipity that she ended up sewingshirts for Capriles. She was making the shirts for a small clothingshop run by businessman Lothar Luis Gonz lez when the orders fromCapriles began coming in. Gonz lez said that he designed the casual shirt along with hisson, and that sales have doubled in the past three months thanks toCapriles.
His business now sells about 60 of the shirts a month,many of them to the campaign and Capriles supporters. Gonz lez’s small business also recently obtained a loan fromCapriles’ state government to buy new machines and expand. Rengifo said she feels pride whenever she sees the candidate ontelevision wearing one of her shirts. For one Venezuelan, at least, Capriles has closed the deal.
“I think he’s a humble person like me,” she said. Follow us on twitter.com/foxnewslatino Like us at facebook.com/foxnewslatino.