The Pendulum of Venezuela’s Opposition: Submission or Political Participation?

Analyst Omar Galindez looks at the opposition’s relationship with Washington.

By Omar Galindez Colmenares – Red Angostura
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The US political establishment continues to back Venezuela’s self-declared “interim president” Juan Guaido. (Y Gripas/picture-alliance)
The US political establishment continues to back Venezuela’s self-declared “interim president” Juan Guaido. (Y Gripas/picture-alliance)

There is a new dilemma hanging over the Venezuelan opposition. The dilemma concerns wavering between adhering to the rules of democratic politics and remaining in submission to the guidelines established by the US government.

It is up to the Venezuelan opposition, and especially that sector which participated in the [parliamentary] elections of December 6 and now sits in the National Assembly, to solve this dilemma. These opposition leaders will enjoy a frontline role in the democratic game for the next five years.

In the chaos created by the shifts and positions around the particular interests of the so-called opposition in Venezuela, the sector now incorporated into institutional life has chosen the path of legality. This implies that this sector is distancing itself from other opposition sectors, which have a tendency to promote violence to achieve regime change. Likewise, this sector which has chosen the path of legality is distancing itself from Washington's tutelage.

Extension for illegality

The auspicious nature of a National Assembly -- with the positive development of a legitimate, organised, institutional and national [in lieu of foreign-directed] opposition -- radically contrasts with sectors of the opposition which follow the Washington libretto, specifically that of the outgoing Trump administration.

These Washington-aligned sectors have tried to extend their ridiculous “interim presidency” and the outgoing and illegal National Assembly for one year, arguing an illegal "transitional status," which contravenes the Venezuelan Constitution.

This sector is made up of the four largest opposition parties and other movements without real political weight forming a mafia, through which crimes of money laundering and embezzlement of the Republic's assets have been committed. This level of corruption is unprecedented in the history of the country.

The allegations of corruption have been circulating in major news outlets in the United States, including the Washington Post and several Florida newspapers. They point to the murky business dealings of those appointed by the self-declared “interim president,” and explain mafia links that have grown since the irregularities in humanitarian aid delivery (the pretext for a violent incursion into Venezuela) previously denounced Humberto Calderon Berti, the interim president’s envoy to Colombia. Calderon Berti revealed the expensive tastes of Mr. Guaido and his henchmen on January 23, 2019.

The fraudulent business dealings with national assets are known in the United States and enjoy full acceptance by the outgoing Trump administration. As such, many of the assets stripped from Venezuela’s control with such sweet maneuvering and legume contraptions are retained by the Treasury Department.

Donald Trump's government reiterated its support for Guaido's interim usurpation repeatedly, with the US Treasury Department issuing a statement on January 4 recognising the (now extinct) National Assembly [which was led by Guaido]. Through General License 31A, Washington authorises the illegal assembly to "act on behalf of the government of Venezuela." The statement goes on to not recognise the new Assembly, which was installed on January 5, 2021, and classifies it as “illegitimate” and failing to come from "free and fair" elections.

In this way, the outgoing Trump administration undermined Venezuelan laws and trivialised our institutions, in an overt intervention in matters that pertain to Venezuela's legal sovereignty. This policy has allowed a sector of the opposition to usurp the nation's offices while the United States strip us of our assets. These are politics of a mafia-based, pro-imperialist and puppet opposition.

What is expected from Joe Biden?

There are no signs that could lead us to think that the new White House administration will be different. We already have said that "There's nothing more like a Donald Trump administration than a Joe Biden one."

One can take stock of this through a number of elements. First, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Venezuela Elliot Abrams stated that in the United States there is a formal consensus between the two parties (and within the political establishment in general) regarding Venezuela. Both parties agree to sustain the policy of pressuring the Maduro government, and one can expect no further changes in US policy toward the South American country.

Second, Joe Biden has called Venezuela's constitutional and legitimate president, Nicolas Maduro, a "dictator." Of course, this term is used in the simplistic, banal and unfounded style with which US presidents often apply such descriptions to those they consider their enemies or political targets. Biden went so far as to say of Maduro that "Only a tyrant avoids sending food and medicine to the people who he claims to lead."

Likewise, during campaigning, Biden said: "It's time for Maduro to leave power and allow for a democratic transition" (February 9, 2019, Washington Post). In fact, other advisers believe that Biden does not plan to lift sanctions against Venezuela, but plans on applying more pressure against Maduro and a long list of officials and relatives. Regime change in Venezuela is what dominates the politics of the new president.

Thus we may conclude that there could be a change in style and tactics, but it comes within the same policy of coercive and unilateral sanctions. Realistically, the policy that the Democrats are pushing toward President Maduro is very Obama-like, whose trusted men are now back in the White House. There's no option for change from Washington.

Any Washington policy towards Venezuela that rebuilds diplomatic relations implies recognising that Chavismo is an important social force in an unbreakable union with the Bolivarian Armed Forces.

This is also true for the opposition, which must begin by recognising that unity in order to start building an important political force that can give it civic and democratic strength on the political battlefield.

Omar Galindez Colmenares is a Venezuelan analyst and professor. He is the author of several books, including The United States of America: the war of succession and the national problem 1861-1865 and serves as a US specialist for the Centre of African, American and Caribbean Studies. He is also a member of the CLASCO - Latin American Council for Social Sciences.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.

Translation by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis