The Venezuelan opposition has shown signs of decomposition after Sunday’s elections. Its fragmentation has paid for the victory of Chavismo, which has also had the control of the institutions and the apathy of the voters. President Nicolás Maduro has not needed hyper-leadership or popularity like Hugo Chávez’s to prevail. His adversaries must now rebuild the board if they do not want it to remain in the Miraflores Palace until 2024 or even beyond.
In Venezuela several bands are always played. That the main opposition parties accepted at the Mexican negotiating table to stand for regional and municipal elections, after Chavismo made a couple of concessions, was not just a way to challenge Maduro and show that Chavismo has waned. until it became a minority option, but rather to question the leadership of Juan Guaidó, a leader who was recognized by dozens of countries as interim president in 2019 and the main asset of the United States. That is to say, summon a kind of primaries from which new leaderships emerged that would end their prominence. These opponents consider that Guaidó has not achieved the objective after three years, which was none other than to overthrow Maduro with the support of a part of the international community.
Guaidó took that position as president in 2019 when his party was the minority within an alliance. The position, in theory, was rotating. The initial success of the adventure made him stay in it permanently. Over time, the other three parties that are part of the Democratic Unity Table (MUD) believe that their time has run out. “The interim government has remained to manage Venezuelan assets abroad and for diplomatic relations, but its impact in the interior of the country is very limited,” explains Luis Vicente León, a political analyst.
The MUD tried to bring together anti-Chavismo in this electoral meeting, without success in view of the results. The ruling party of the Government had all the machinery of the State to campaign, it was an unequal fight. Although it was even more so due to the decisions made by the government’s adversaries. The MUD represented the traditional parties and did not want to establish alliances with more consolidated regional leaders in some states, considering them close to Chavismo. These are known as scorpions for their shenanigans with the ruling party to maintain their quotas of power. The MUD, however, misjudged the real power of some of these regional chieftains.
The opposition lost several regions in which they were clearly superior to Chavismo. The MUD preferred to place people from its environment than to leave the candidacy in the hands of these others whom it distrusted. Alianza Democrática, the other opposition force, did gather these leaderships and obtained better results in those specific places, although insufficient. The fragmentation helped the ruling party. “The ability to win was destroyed and several states were thrown overboard for not weaving intelligent agreements,” concludes León.
At this point, it’s time to reconfigure the board. The union of the MUD and the Alliance is almost impossible. Chavismo has asked to include the latter at the Mexican negotiating table, which may further heat up spirits. And the interim government of Guaidó, the third actor, has not directly supported these elections. It has not legitimized that route. The State Department issued a statement the following day in which it showed its distrust in the process. It was a clear sign of support for his bet in Venezuela, this young lawyer who was only 35 years old when he made himself known to the world. As long as the United States is behind, he will remain a clear leader of the opposition. This backup must not only be read internally. Hardly, without another visible head that stands out, President Joe Biden will turn his back on Guaidó, very popular among the Latino community in Florida.
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The opposition will use the first two quarters of next year to rebuild itself. Benigno Alarcón, director of the Center for Political and Government Studies at the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas, senses that it will be divided into two, basically. A more radical wing that will not associate with those they consider scorpions and will try to act before 2024, the date of the next presidential elections. This side does not trust the electoral path as a way to evict Chavismo from power. He believes that in no case will Maduro lend himself to elections with all the guarantees and accept a defeat. They trust the International Criminal Court investigation against Maduro for crimes against humanity and the arrests of Alex Saab and El Pollo Carvajal, two Chavismo operators, to destabilize the regime. Leopoldo López, Maria Corina Machado or Guaidó himself are counted on this side.
In the other, a more moderate faction that will sometimes understand itself with these diffuse forces and that will negotiate with the Government, willing to be patient and wait until 2024. They entrust themselves to that date to assault power through the ballot box. The most prominent leaders of the moderates are Stalin González and Henrique Capriles. Yours is a popularity issue. Guaidó has on occasions hinted that he would be willing to compete in a primary for the leadership of the opposition. According to a survey by Consultores 21 that the parties manage but that all the parties have seen, Guaidó continues to be the most valued politician among anti-Chavistas.
Without the union of these two opposing forces, can Maduro be defeated? “It depends on the leadership that manages to position itself and how. The low turnout (41.8%) has to do with the diaspora, millions of compatriots have left, but it is also a vote of punishment for the opposition. It has not been consistent, ”explains Alarcón. There has not even been unity when it comes to asking for the vote. Those who did have been asking people not to vote for three years. Now they were told it was for the best. Many Venezuelans, confused, chose on Sunday to go play baseball or kill the day at their doorstep.
In the absence of that unit or that leadership that is capable of articulating all the discontent with Chavismo, Maduro continues in office supported by the military and a minority of loyal Venezuelans. The disunity of his adversaries underpins him in power.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.