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Is the Future of Venezuela Defined in State Governors' Elections?

  • Thousands of Venezuelans take to the streets of Monagas in support of the Bolivarian process ahead of this Sunday's regional elections.

    Thousands of Venezuelans take to the streets of Monagas in support of the Bolivarian process ahead of this Sunday's regional elections. | Photo: teleSUR

Published 12 October 2017

"It seems that the crucial question is whether the ANC and the National Assembly can live together," Aram Aharonian.

Millions of Venezuelans will vote on Sunday, 15 October, to elect the governors of the country's 23 states, in a poll where high abstention is expected. There are many forecasts, but in reality they are 23 elections with different characteristics and situations, although in most states only two options are presented: government or opposition.


Why Are Venezuela's Regional Elections So Crucial?

Perhaps to cut the pace of the bourgeoisie who threaten to take most of the opposition's votes in the regional elections, the anti-Bolivarian radical and elitist sectors came out again on Monday, September 25 and said they will not participate in dialogue with the government in the Dominican Republic. Dialogue has really become an internal problem of the opposition.

In the background of the dialogue agenda, the theme is one of "conflict of powers" and the aspirations of radical opposition sectors to impose a parallel state in the street as they intended to do on July 16.

They say that there will be dialogue only if they destroy the pending gubernatorial elections. Translated this means that if they lose, and the government wins most of the state governorships on October 15 and the National Constituent Assembly continues its course, they will return to terrorism and destabilization indefinitely, seeking to achieve a devastated land.


The Social Democrats of the Democratic Action Party, AD, was defeated by all other political parties in The Democratic Unity Table, MUD, internal primaries. They are treated like malcontents and rebels but the MUD needs their votes and also their financing because it is AD who managed the resources which provided governments in the past for years, foundations and NGOs from abroad, and not only from the United States.

The opposition hopes that the regional and municipal elections will allow time for an incremental strategy for recovering forces, resources of power, unity and command in a cross-party coalition of conflicting interests between the pragmatic-electoral sector, radical sectors with Putsch-Insurrectional aspirations (civil resistance) and other entities in an attempt to combine all forms of struggle, acording to a report from 15 y último.

The MUD insists on an international strategy to isolate Venezuela with diplomatic and economic-financial strangulation as the Bolivarian government tries to break the siege with the support of  Russia, China, Iran and those non-aligned countries which are blocking US plans for Venezuela.

The MUD demands: reestablishment of the electoral schedule, including regional, municipal and presidential elections; the release of political prisoners; the lifting of disqualifications of opposition leaders ( e.g. Capriles Radonski); respect for the independence of (intra) state powers; recognition of the National Assembly (nullified by the Supreme Court) and immediate attention to economic and social emergencies.

Decisive Factors in Venezuela’s Regional Elections

The government wants an opposition that recognizes its validity, as well as an opposition that attributes legitimacy and legality to the decisions of the newly elected National Constituent Assembly, ANC. The opposition refuses to validate the ANC until it obtains guarantees that it will not become a new sword of Damocles when presidential elections will be held in 2018. For the Government, to recognize the National Assembly would be to restore its legitimacy from its "current situation of contempt", recognize the decisions of the Supreme Court of Justice and accept the decisions of the ANC.

It seems that the crucial question is whether the ANC and the National Assembly can live together, especially when the ANC was created as an organ of power that, according to its own Constitutional Decrees, controls all Powers, including the legislature. Thus, it demands recognition not only of its legitimacy but also of that which can be negotiated in cohabitation of the two bodies.

Electoral forecasts

The opposition often says they will win all of their candidates, and their advisers assert,  "the government is not in a position to win any regional or presidential election." However, the opposition has always underestimated the government's capacity for electoral mobilization, with the exception of events in 2015, when 7,626,616 votes won the majority of the National Assembly for the opposition.

Months pass, years pass, and the opposition leadership has failed to fulfill a single one of its promises, while being complicit in the terrorist violence that hit the country for four months this year. Worse still, they applauded the sanctions and threats of invasion from Washington, revealing their treasonous positions for which in the end they pay a price at the polls.

And as has happened so many times over these 18 years, if they do not achieve their electoral objectives there is the possibility that the opposition will again denounce the results as fraud. It is now part of folklore.

The more radical sectors, such as the group, Resistencia, will surely abstain, which obviously will not be to the benefit of opposition candidates. A few weeks ago the journalist and opposition activist Marianella Salazar said that "high abstention in the (opposition) primary reveals a political action of repudiation against the MUD" and said that it "lost its political capital and gave oxygen to the so-called Resistencia", which has been gaining ground.

Many of the results will depend on the performance of incumbant governors who aspire to re-election and this also includes pro-government governors. But unlike the disunity amongst the opposition leadership, the ruling Socialist United Party of Venezuela, PSUV, and its allies show unity, proven organizational capacity and electoral machinery and official media support.

But the biggest problem remains rampant in cities, towns and rural areas of Venezuela: shortages and inflation to which has been added unprecedented retail price increases during recent weeks preceding the elections.

Kicking the dialogue table

Beyond the postponement of the current  dialogue, the government of Nicolas Maduro and the opposition will have to reach agreements in the next nine months, because next July the presidential candidates must be made known for elections which the government has scheduled to take place by the end of 2018. 

The truth is that there was not much information about the dialogue: some do not report so as not to "burn" it, given successive failures since 2014, while others feel "guilty" for  sitting down to talk to those who had threatened to sack the government by methods, good, bad or worse.

Negotiations that began in the Dominican Republic deal with two scenarios, short-term and medium to long term scenarios. The first scenario is coexistence in the remaining months of the presidential term of Maduro, with required approval by the National Assembly of new borrowings and indebtedness among the two sides and an agreement on the pending gubernatorial elections and timetable for presidential elections which have been delayed until the end of next year.

The central objective of the opposition to produce a new round of negotiations seems to be that the government must agree to step down if it loses in next year's presidential elections, while the priority of the ruling party would be to reach a coexistence agreement – much better a peaceful one of course - for the next presidential term, 2019-2024.

Despite what MUD leaders say at the microphones (which is only understandable as is said under strong pressure from U.S. officials), the opposition party that seems to be in favor these points is Acción Democrática, AD, and those who are in general lines of agreement, Un Nuevo Tiempo or “A New Time”, UNT, as well as Avanzada Progresista, or “Progressive Advocate” (from  Henry Falcon, governor of the State of Lara).
In the meantime, representatives of government and opposition political organizations and technicians from the National Electoral Council, CNE, have finalized without any objection the audit of data in voting machines, part of the electoral timetable, within the set of guarantees for the transparency and reliability of the electoral system, with a view to the regional elections next Sunday, October 15.

Reckless attitudes

But there are leaders of other parties within the diverse Democratic Unity Table who have not issued their endorsements, perhaps anchored in the hope that Washington's financial blockade and economic war might overthrow the government. Primarily these intransigent parties include Primero Justicia, “First Justice,” Henrique Capriles Radonski, former presidential candidate (now banned by the Supreme Court for 15 years from running for political office for having commited crimes against the state); current president of the the National Assembly, Julio Borges and of Vanguardia Popular, Popular Front, headed by Leopoldo López who is under house arrest (also convicted of crimes against the state).

Analyst and political leader Leopoldo Puchi points out that these groups - who have participated in the talks but have not expressed it publicly - may think that the 2018 presidential elections will be held even without a previous agreement on coexistence, in "a reckless attitude of ignorance of the political realities, which can be very costly for the country. "

Of the opposition organizations, those who have expressed themselves more sharply against the negotiations have been Vente Venezuela (led by María Corina Machado), the Episcopal Conference and the self-styled Resistancia.

As the government busily seeks political stability for economic recovery, opposition sectors, including the Catholic Church hierarchy, have an agenda for the short-term destabilization of Maduro's government.

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Cardinal Urosa Savino called for postponing dialogue until after the results of the regional elections. 
"Gubernatorial elections are important to establish the beginning of the change of government in the country. Now we should not debate whether there is dialogue or not "(...)" there are no guarantees or conditions for dialogue. "

Analysts like Luis Vicente León (Datanálisis, “screenwriter” for MUD) have indicated that with the dialogue, "The opposition can get some  things, but not Maduro’s resignation." Gokai Moreno says that the topic of dialogue and elections could be part of an agenda to rebuild Chavismo's democratic politics, as it will also require dialogue towards its own bases to prepare them for the complex economic scenario of 2018.

According to political scientist Leopoldo Puchi, these organizations for dialogue work fluently with José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party and with the Dominican leaders, headed by ex-president Leonel Fernández, all facilitators of the negotiation.

It’s interesting  that the dialogue seems to be endorsed by the government of U.S. President Donald Trump, who indicated his support for the mediation of Danilo Medina and Rodríguez Zapatero. According to a statement issued by the U.S. State Department: "The United States reiterates its call for a complete restoration of democracy in Venezuela. We support serious negotiations that in good faith achieve this goal. "

Following Washington’s example, chancellors of twelve Latin American countries who demand the overthrow of Maduro, welcomed the rapprochements, but said they should be developed with international support, "good faith", "objectives" and "clear deadlines."

The Chavistas Who Toppled Columbus: Venezuela’s Fight Against Colonialism

In a statement issued in Bogota, the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru recognized "the initiative of the Dominican Republic to bring together the Venezuelan government and opposition, as well as the decision by both parties to invite some other countries to accompany this process.”

At the international level, two types of movements can be identified: one that insists on Venezuela's political-diplomatic isolation by the right wing bloc in the OAS, the US and its European allies in Brussels, and the other to promote dialogue with verification of guarantees, agreements and results, from the UN, the Vatican (not the hierarchy of the Venezuelan Church) and some other South American countries. 

The opposition puts its chips on the election of governors, and concur (for now), knowingly, that it will not be easy to overcome the abstentionist apathy of its followers. If it does not win, it has three options: to declare fraud, to return to street terrorism or finally, to sit down and discuss politically the problems of the country, as having been part of the problem, but also in the future, part of the solution.

Translated by Les Blough, Editor of Axis of Logic
Original Soucre - Rebelión has published this article with the author's permission under a Creative Commons license, respecting its freedom to publish it in other sources.

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