Venezuela: The Broken “Unity” of the Opposition

Almost a year after the parliamentary elections, opposition forces have not advanced at all in terms of the coup they promised for this year, and have been thwarted in their attempts time and again by the resistance of the Bolivarian government and its popular support.

Author: Dilbert Reyes Rodríguez |
Venezuela opposition forces remain divided. Photo: AVN

Caracas.— It could be said that tenacity is the basis of the resistance with which Chavista forces have maintained the Bolivarian Revolution in the face of an incessant destabilizing and stigmatizing onslaught from within and outside the country.

To the outside world, the progress, or lack thereof, in the dialogue that today sees the revolutionary government and sectors of the opposition at the negotiating table, will define the coming twists and turns of the country’s tense political situation. However, between one session and another, the latest announcements and the next, daily life demonstrates that the internal confrontation and economic war remain a latent reality.

To date, what has been signed on paper goes far beyond any concrete advances. Since the start of the talks, the most remarkable aspect has been the relative tranquility as regards mobilizations in the streets.

Meanwhile, the discourse has not changed, framed within the traditional polarization, and while on the one hand the national government, through President Nicolás Maduro, insists tirelessly on the permanence of the dialogue, several sectors of the right continue their threats to leave the table, while seeking pretexts for a boycott.

They repeat over and over that the revolutionary bloc is failing to comply with what has been agreed, without contributing even the slightest element, while demanding the mass release of corrupt and violent individuals they refer to as “political prisoners.” This despite the executive reiterating on several occasions that the majority of those named “are not and will not” be up for discussion, in clear reference to examples such as Leopoldo López, the mastermind behind the La Salida (The Exit) plan that triggered the guarimbas (violent street barricades) of 2014, causing the deaths of 43 Venezuelans.

Notwithstanding, the dialogue has provoked a falling out among opposition factions, casting further light on the internal divisions within the so-calledDemocratic Unity Roundtable (MUD).

There has been no shortage of attacks against opposition representative Carlos Ocariz, of the Primero Justicia party, who almost immediately after the agreements were announced, was forced to declare that the section in which the right wing recognizes the existence of an economic boycott promoted by them, was the result of a misinterpretation of the document, claiming “because there is a boycott, but on the part of the government.”

The truth is that following the conciliatory announcements, there have been successive divisive incidents within opposition forces, especially among the leaders of the parties making up the MUD.

The first sign was the self-exclusion from the negotiating table of the radical Voluntad Popular party, led by the incarcerated Leopoldo Lopez, whose top brass declared that conditions were not ripe to sit down and talk, while assuring they would continue with disturbances in the streets.

With this withdrawal, remaining at the table were the representatives chosen by the dominant Primero Justicia and Accion Democrática parties, together with those from the Un Nuevo Tiempo party. Despite being three parties, the conservative media have named them the “G4”, while their exclusive participation in the talks has generated a series of squabbles among the rest of the MUD members.

Just last week there were strong statements by several leaders of the coalition, including Omar Ávila from the Unidad Visión Venezuela party, who criticized the exclusion of other opposition forces in decision-making, and called for an internal negotiating table to really shake up and restructure the coalition, as reported by AVN.

Joining the denunciation of this arbitrary exclusion was María Corina Machado, of the Vente Venezuela party, who recalled that since January there has been no further plenary meeting of the 26 parties forming the coalition.

“It is not a matter of claiming that we were excluded and that they did not take us into account to consult us regarding decisions, we are not defending a small sphere of influence, but rather at the moment the country requires the consensus of opinion of the majority of the society,” she said, according to AVN.

Meanwhile, Ávila stressed the urgency of the meeting and demanded it be held before December 6, the date set for the next meeting between the government and the opposition.

Henri Falcón is also participating in the dialogue as a representative of the MUD. The controversial governor of the state of Lara is described by Chavista forces as a “turncoat” after switching political sides years ago.

This self-styled champion of reconciliation has been described by several factions as a candidate for the undecided. However, as his positions do not satisfy either one side or the other, he suffers the rejection of many of his supposed allies, who refute his role as a negotiator and have even decided to mount a campaign against him in the lead-up to the state governorship elections in 2017.

According to the Twitter account of the Bolivarian José Alejandro Natera, municipal councilor for Iribarren, it was revealed during a meeting in the city of Barquisimeto, the state capital, that the current mayor (from the Causa R party) would run for governor, and the deputy, Luis Florido (of Voluntad Popular), for mayor, in a joint strategy that would prevent the re-election of Falcón.

Alongside these rifts, there have been signs – some implied and others evident – that the MUD has had to recognize its mistakes and desperation, including the statements published by Jesús Torrealba in a recent opinion piece.

The secretary general of the MUD asserts in the article that the intended political trial that right-wing legislators in the National Assembly attempted to use as a tool for a parliamentary coup against Nicolás Maduro is not constitutional.

“The real truth is that there is no such thing as a “political trial” or impeachment in the National Constitution, such as that which removed Richard Nixon from power in the United States or Dilma Rousseff in Brazil,” he admitted.

The news broadcast the previous week, on the withdrawal of the three deputies from Amazonas state, illegally sworn in to the National Assembly in July, in defiance of the Supreme Court of Justice’s (TSJ) suspension, also demonstrates the veiled recognition of opposition errors. Further evidence is the request from Henrique Capriles to the National Electoral Council (CNE), to activate a recall referendum process against the President of the Republic for 2017, on December 6, thus conceding that their aspirations of holding the vote this year have been frustrated.

By now, and as a result of the political confrontation, the Bolivarian Government is no longer the only force fighting on several fronts, although in this case the aim is to overcome the dispute and advance the economic progress of the country.

In addition to the defense of the Revolution and all its social conquests, in the face of the internal oligarchy’s onslaught, the executive is making colossal efforts to consolidate the nation’s productive diversification, while resisting the attacks of an international conspiracy that extends from media lies, through shady diplomacy and financial strategies.

The last known ploy was the intentional delay by U.S. banks in issuing payments to PDVSA (state oil company) bondholders, despite the South American nation having made the bond coupon payments on time, a stunt the Bolivarian government denounced as premeditated in order to discredit and directly attack the state-owned company.

Meanwhile, the leadership of the Venezuelan political opposition, apparently created with the sole intent of overthrowing anything resembling a Revolution, and not proposing any coherent or credible alternative, has been forced to face, as a new battle front, its own followers, already tired of useless marches and maneuvers, and of their own loud-mouthed and failed leaders. Almost a year after the parliamentary elections, opposition forces have not advanced at all in terms of the coup they promised for this year, and have been thwarted in their attempts time and again by the resistance of the Bolivarian government and its popular support.