Venezuela’s opposition licks wounds after electoral defeat

For four years opponents of Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, refused to participate in the election they believe. But by changing the course, last week it stopped voters from running all over the state – and lost a lot.

Maduro’s revolutionary socialist Party PSUV won at least 19 of the 23 administrations (one result still in dispute) and more than 200 of the 335 mayors, including the mayor of Caracas. “Christmas is fast approaching for us,” said Diosdado Cabello, a powerful second-largest Socialist party.

The results leave difficult decisions for divided dissidents over the task of tackling the Maduro government through a ballot box. It is also the backbone of many international allies of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, whom the US recognizes as the country’s legitimate president.

“Opponents, the US, Europe and many Latin American countries are close to agreeing that the democratic process needs to be negotiated,” said Michael Penfold, a professor of economics and leadership at IESA, a business school in Caracas. . “Negotiations in Venezuela should be based on what is possible, not what is important.”

For the first time in 15 years, the EU sent election observers to Venezuela, a decision which some critics said made the election more legitimate. But there was widespread opposition.

Isabel Santos, senior observer of the EU Election Observation Mission in Venezuela, leaves Caracas press conference on Sunday © Federico Parra / AFP / Getty

Antony Blinken, United States Secretary of State, said: “New York Human Rights Watch is monitoring reports of irregularities, threats and threats on election day. “There are no free and fair elections in this country,” he said. he said Tamara Taraciuk, vice president of the United States.

The EU itself offered various views, saying that voting was “organized under favorable electoral conditions compared to previous years”, but criticized the government for “excessive use of public resources” in campaigning and blocking certain individuals.

The ruling Maduro party was also backed by a highly divided opposition, which divided the vote.

“If you increase the votes nationwide MUD and Alliance [the two main non-government blocs] then you will have a strong anti-government movement, ”said Luis Vicente León, Datanalisis chief investigator. “United would have won more controls.”

More than 100 parties stood at the polls, dropping ballot papers with the desired names such as Progressive Advance, Hope for Change, Venezuela First, Procitizens and A New Era. More than 70,000 competed, and most were from minority opposition groups. On average, there were 23 people in each of the 3,082 positions offered.

Mayra Hernández, 74, says: “I found it very disturbing. “In every election there are many choices.”

Juan Guaidó speaks at a press conference in Caracas on Monday

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó said this Monday “is not the time to fight against arrogant political leaders” © Rayner Pena / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

Speaking after the election, Guaidó acknowledged divisions, but said: “This is not a time for political strife, not a time for egos for political leadership. It is a time for reflection, solidarity and working for the Venezuelan people.”

He and other anti-government activists emphasized the need for “reform”, “rebirth” and “reform” before the 2024 presidential election.

Such comments are “what we hear about political leadership, but no one is saying how to do it,” said Maryhen Jiménez, a Venezuelan political scientist and research associate at Oxford University. “This is his job and it will take time.”

The US and other countries, including the UK, must decide in January whether to approve Guaidó as Venezuelan president for another year.

They see him as such since the beginning of 2019 when, with the help of Trump’s administration, he boldly stepped in to oust Maduro, claiming that Maduro had seized power by announcing victory in a false election.

The US has vowed to give Guaidó another year. “I do not expect any change in this regard,” said Brian Nichols, assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere. he tells House Foreign Affairs Committee recently.

But the story is not clear. Secretly, even Guaidó’s team figures say they are not feeling well with the idea of ​​increasing his position. The EU has already quietly stopped recognizing him as a long-serving president, calling him a key figure in the opposition.

When the UK considers the issue, it should also look at the dispute between Maduro and Guaidó over the ownership of gold in the chambers of the Bank of England. Colombia and Brazil – two of Venezuela’s most important allies – are due to retaliate against Guaidó for now, although this could change after their 2022 elections.

Meanwhile, Maduro and the opposition delegates are still involved in the Norwegian dialogue in Mexico, which aims to find a solution to the political crisis. Maduro broke the last round opposed the release of one of the US allies and this week said “these conditions do not exist” to return to negotiations.

“It will be a long way to democracy and not a short, clear and powerful path that many believed three years ago,” Penfold said.

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