Opposition Candidate Maria Corina Machado Pledges “Popular Capitalism”

Maria Corina Machado, possibly the most right-wing conservative voice within the Venezuelan opposition, is the anti-Chavez minority’s only female candidate. Lacking a political party, per se, Machado maintains close ties to the United States and has depended for years on her Washington-based financiers and advisors.


Campaigning on a platform of what she calls, ‘Popular Capitalism’, – the same term used by Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – Machado is widely expected to lose the opposition’s pre-presidential primaries since even those who oppose Chavez’s socialism understand the lack of popular support for speeches promising “more capitalism”.

Machado is one of six prepresidential hopefuls participating in primaries of the opposition’s Mesa de Unidad

Democratica (MUD), or Democratic Unity Roundtable in English. Scheduled for 12 February 2012, their primaries are part of a US-backed effort to unite the opposition and attempt to unseat Venezuelan 

President Hugo Chavez in next year’s presidential elections. Chavez, who is expected to sweep the presidential election, has committed to “deepen, push forward, and consolidate” the Bolivarian Revolution’s platform of ‘21st Century Socialism’ during his next presidential term (2013-2019).

Maria Corina: A US Favorite

Closely tied to the world of “non governmental organizations” (NGOs), specifically those funded by the US State Department, the wealthy US-educated Maria Corina Machado first made a name for herself as Vice President and later Director of the Atenea Foundation (1994-2000), as Founder and Director of the Opportunities Foundation (1998-2002), and later as Co- Founder, Financial Secretary, Vice President and Director of Sumate (2003 – 2010), an NGO financed by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), all three of which are known across Latin America for their attempts to destabilize progressive governments under the guise of “democracy promotion”. 

Machado’s defense of “democracy” was tested in 2002 when anti-Chavez forces attempted to forcefully remove democratically-elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from office. On April 11th, unidentified snipers stationed on top of Caracas highrises, fired upon pro- and anti-government demonstrators in a pre-orchestrated operation designed to justify a military coup d’état against Venezuela’s Chavez. 

Coup Involvement

As popular forces from poor and working neighborhoods across the country took to the streets, demanding the return of their President, Machado made her way to Miraflores Presidential Palace where she joined her opposition allies in signing the Carmona Decree, an act that suspended all democratic rights, revoked the Constitution (1999) approved by a majority of voters just three years earlier, and installed business leader Pedro Carmona as the interim “president”.

Machado denies any wrongdoing, and says she was only at the presidential palace responding to an invitation by her mother, Corina de Machado, who also signed the dictatorial decree. 

In 2004, the NGO Machado operated was the driving force behind the failed recall referendum against the Venezuelan President and in May 2005, Machado had her own private meeting with then US President George W. Bush in the White House Oval Office. 

Though the anti-Chavez initiative failed, Machado improved her position and name recognition within the Venezuelan

opposition. In mid 2009, Machado visited Bolivia to speak with members of the NED-financed New Democracy Foundation. Speaking alongside her Bolivian counterparts, who oppose the popular government of Evo Morales, Machado declared, “21st Century Socialism seeks to destroy democracy”, though she failed to explain how participatory democracy and community-based development is “anti-democratic”.

The pre-presidential candidate spent the second half of 2009 in the United States, participating in the Yale University World Fellows Program. A year later, with the financial support of the International Republican Institute, NED, Usaid and the political backing of the opposition’s MUD coalition, Machado was elected to the Venezuelan National Assembly.

She joined the legislatura in January 2011 alongside a pro-Chavez majority, and has since used her position to oppose

any and all policy initiatives of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). In one of her more controversial remarks made at the National Assembly, Machado once accused a group of PSUV legislators and Ministers of being “a bunch of communists, scared to admit it”.

“Popular Capitalism for All”

During a recent series of campaign events, including a televised debate between the opposition’s pre-presidential candidates, Machado proudly pushed forward her slogan of ‘Popular Capitalism’. “What’s yours is yours and no one can take it from you”, Machado affirmed, over and over again at each of her numerous private campaign events.

“Popular Capitalism is the bringing together of market efficiency and the market’s capacity to produce goods and services”, she explained to the anti-Chavez newspaper El Universal. “It’s a proposal based on a new alliance between businessmen and workers, in absolute brotherhood looking after each others interests”, she said. 

The Bolivarian Revolution and the dramatic reductions in social inequality associated with the Chavez government “need people living in poverty so as to generate dependence”, Machado claims. Instead, she says, Venezuela should be converted into “an ownership society, a society of entrepreneurs” and the national stateowned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa), should be opened up to the “stock market and all its marvels”.

In a recent article, the US-based Cato Institute’s Juan Carlos Hidalgo wrote that Machado’s “commitment to free market ideas is a welcome departure from the other opposition candidates who seem interested in perpetuating Venezuela’s entitlement culture”.

The neo-liberal writer expressed great satisfaction with Machado’s rejection of public spending and her argument that government should focus on providing “the legal framework that stimulates entrepreneurship and eliminates regulatory obstacles”. Hidalgo also praised Machado’s “strong defense of private property” and quoted her as saying, “if you can’t own the fruit of your labor, then you don’t own your labor and thus you aren’t free”.

Machado, wrote the Cato Institute’s Hidalgo, “is a breath of fresh air from the usual Venezuelan political discourse that stresses the government’s central role in redistributing the country’s oil riches”.

Maria Corina Machado comes from one of Venezuela’s wealthiest families, the Machado Zuloagas, who form part of the nation’s elite class that coveted most of the country’s oil wealth throughout the twentieth century.