Chavismo has won this Sunday in 20 of the 23 governorates, in addition to the government in Caracas, in regional and local elections with the lowest participation in the last 20 years (41.8%). The electoral map has not changed much from the one left by the last election in 2017, in which most of the opposition abstained from participating and only a few parties presented candidates without a unitary platform. Then the opposition obtained five governors, although it later lost that of Zulia, when Juan Pablo Guanipa refused to be recognized by the National Constituent Assembly, a condition that Chavismo imposed for its proclamation and argument that the regional legislature used to dismiss him days after being elect.
Four years later, Chavismo has seized three important territories held by the opposition this Sunday: Anzoátegui, in the eastern part of the country, and the Andean states of Mérida and Táchira. The most striking victory is that of Freddy Bernal in Táchira. Bernal is a former police officer of the oldest militants of the Bolivarian revolution, from the times of the founding party of Hugo Chávez MVR. He was mayor of Caracas in two terms, deputy and commissioner of the intelligence service. Since 2016 he has been coordinator of the CLAPs, the structures that organize the distribution of low-cost food in poor neighborhoods, which have become the political machinery of Chavismo. Under his control has been the closing or opening of the border with Colombia and during the last year the management of migrants who returned in the midst of the pandemic.
That of Chavismo has been the triumph of the protectors that Maduro promised to eliminate after this election. The protectors are a counter-power to the ruling party imposed on the territories won by the opposition to overshadow their efforts with resources and attributes without limits or legislative controls. Freddy Bernal himself was Táchira’s protector. This figure is not a Maduro creation. Since Chávez’s time, it has been a recurring practice, as a consolation prize for its losers in the regions. Both in Mérida and Anzoátegui, Jehyson Guzmán and Luis Marcano, who had been designated for that purpose, triumphed.
The ruling party, as has happened in the last two decades, has once again become the Libertador mayoralty that governs the capital. Caracas will be governed by a military, Admiral Carmen Meléndez, former Interior Minister. The rest of the States that it retains are expected. Its great loss has been Zulia, which, like Táchira, are the states with a historic rejection of Chavismo and now returns to the opposition.
The high levels of abstention, an opaque campaign without resources and the irremediable fragmentation of the candidacies led the opposition to a very mediocre electoral result. The opposition parties were victorious in Zulia State, the most populous in the country, in which Manuel Rosales, national figure and leader of Un Nuevo Tiempo, triumphed. They also won by surprise in the Cojedes state of plain, nominating Alberto Galíndez, from Acción Democrática, and on the island of Margarita, one of their traditional strongholds, in which Morel Rodríguez prevailed supported by dissident parties linked to the so-called Democratic Alliance.
The three governorates reached by the opposition are fewer than the four in the 2017 regional elections, which were highly questioned for their lack of transparency. Despite the fact that all opinion polls in the country show that more than 80% of the population would like political change to take place in peace, no one has been surprised by the poor results obtained by the opposition.
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The sinking of the opposing forces responds to several causes. The best known opposition leaders have important differences regarding the assessment and true usefulness of attending the elections organized by Chavismo. That happens with an important part of the citizenry, who do not go to the polls due to mistrust in the process.
The political leadership of the opposition made the decision to attend the meeting late and was not able to design a national campaign with a coherent message. In addition to not having resources, the opposition was presented divided, with two and even three candidates, in at least eight federal entities, some of them the most important in the country. In several he ended up losing by little margin. “The abstention that has been registered shows the lack of interest in public affairs. Venezuela is exhausted, it can no longer support the row of politicians who failed the country ”, highlights Jesús Seguías, political analyst and president of the Dataincorp firm.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.