Opposition Infighting Marks New Election Cycle

In the context of nationwide municipal elections scheduled for later this year, the Venezuelan opposition is showing growing signs of internal division and frustration over their outspoken and self-proclaimed “leader” Henrique Capriles.


Said to be united under the auspices of the right-wing Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition, numerous opposition figureheads have begun questioning Capriles’ role in the national debate.

In Disagreement

While many in Venezuela are looking forward to the December 8th municipal elections, the opposition’s failed presidential candidate Henrique Capriles continues to focus his discourse on claims he won the April 2013 presidential election. After the country’s highest judicial and electoral bodies confirmed that Nicolas Maduro won the April election, Capriles went as far as to propose the country hold a national constituent assembly. Understood by most as just another unrealistic attempt to mobilize anti-government sentiment, his proposal has even been rejected by top-ranking figures within the opposition coalition.

With respect to Capriles’ ongoing assertion that he is the “legitimate” president of Venezuela, former opposition governor Pablo Perez recently told reporters that he has “different criteria”.

“Maduro has been recognized by the Pope, the National Electoral Council (CNE), and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ)”, Perez explained. “He (Maduro) is the President”, Perez affirmed, “and there he is, governing”.

“I, for one, need to maintain a serious and responsible stance when addressing the nation”, said the former governor.

An active member of the Venezuelan opposition, Pablo Perez came in second behind Capriles in the 2012 opposition primary. Perez actually had a strong chance of winning the internal vote until a last-minute withdrawal by Leopoldo Lopez. Barred from holding elected office for acts of corruption, Lopez went on to become Capriles’ 2012 campaign coordinator.

With respect to the opposition coalition, Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), Perez stated that, “what exists is a consensus, not unity”.

In another telling example of opposition discord with Capriles, Secretary General of anti-government party Democratic Action (AD) Henry Ramos Allup told Noticias24 this week that “momentary political problems, no matter how grave they may be, can not be solved using extreme measures such as a constitutional assembly”.

Speaking on behalf of Democratic Action –one of the two power-sharing parties that dominated Venezuelan politics throughout the Fourth Republic (1958-1998)– Allup stated firmly, “you don’t just convene a constituent assembly because you want to oust the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) or the General Prosecutor”.

Capriles accuses the TSJ of “pro-government bias” and insists that he is the victim of judicial “persecution”.

“Perhaps it’s because of my historical knowledge of Venezuela’s constituent bodies, constitutions, and constitutional acts”, Allup affirmed, “I do not share that (Capriles’) opinion”.

“We can’t just go about throwing dice to see if we roll a double-six. These things are very delicate”, he concluded.

Article 348 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, approved by an overwhelming majority in a national referendum in 1999, stipulates that “the initiative for calling a National Constituent Assembly may emanate from the President of the Republic sitting with the Cabinet of Ministers; from the National Assembly, by a two-thirds vote of its members; from the Municipal Councils in open session, by a two-thirds vote of their members; and from 15% of the voters registered with the Civil and Electoral Registry”.

Delicate Situation

In an opinion piece published this week by right-wing analyst Rafael Poleo, the opposition supporter affirmed Capriles is “largely responsible for what is now a delicate (political) situation” as the country prepares for the December elections. As the founder, editor, and owner of Venezuelan daily El Nuevo Pais as well as the conservative magazine Zeta, Poleo has a significant readership among the Venezuelan opposition.

In a piece he titled “Alone”, Poleo wrote on Monday that “Capriles has not understood that he is only strong when he is able to bring forces together. To do so, he must provide guarantees to those he wishes to unite”.

“Capriles has not dedicated sufficient attention to political parties other than his own”, wrote Poleo, “nor has he reached out to other leaders within his own party”.

The “difficult situation” Poleo referred to includes opposition candidates who are now breaking ranks with Capriles and the MUD. The most blatant example of this is found in Libertador, Caracas’ most densely-populated municipality. Currently governed by socialist mayor Jorge Rodriguez (2008-present), the mayoralty is to be fought over by two opposition candidates and an incumbent Rodriguez.

According to official results from the 2012 opposition primary, Ismael Garcia beat Antonio Ecarri by some 300 (0.2%) votes. Ecarri insists that he actually won the contest by some 900 votes.

Though Capriles demands that Ecarri step aside and allow Garcia to serve as the only opposition candidate in the municipality, Ecarri has already registered his candidacy.

Capriles, who lost the 2013 presidential election by over 200,000 votes and refuses to accept the results, insists that Ecarri “must recognize that he lost and decide what to do with himself”.

Outlandish Strategy

Apart from his haphazard calls for a constituent assembly, Capriles also recently threatened to take his fraudulent claims to “the international community”. Speaking to CNN last week, Capriles promised to take his claims that he won the 2013 election to “the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations”. Earlier this month, Capriles promised a group of supporters that he would soon force President Nicolas Maduro to “step down immediately”.

Referring to the social, political, and economic transformations brought about under the leadership of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Capriles claimed “the Revolution is over!”

“This can’t continue any longer”, he said. “This is done. This Revolution is over! I’m not here to tell the government to rectify. No. I am here to tell them (the Maduro Administration) that they must leave office, that this won’t change while they’re there, that this gets worse every day”.

In contrast to his outlandish affirmations, a recent study by independent polling firm Hinterlaces found that 58% of Venezuelans classify the Maduro presidency “positive”.

According to Hinterlaces Director Oscar Schemel, the opposition’s standing “has suffered a steady decline” since April. Asked why this is the case, Schemel affirmed that the opposition “is largely disconnected from the issues and expectations of most Venezuelans”.