‘More of This, Abigail?’

VA columnist Jessica Dos Santos argues that the Venezuelan opposition remains as treacherous and elitist as ever.
Jessica Venezuelan opposition
In this edition of "Tales of Resistance", Jessica Dos Santos explains the dangers posed by far-right candidate María Corina Machado. (Venezuelanalysis)

In Venezuela, ever since the late 80s, every time someone is bothering us by being monotonous or repetitive, the go-to comeback is “More of this, Abigail?”

Abigail was a Venezuelan soap opera filled with absolutely hilarious drama. It spanned 257 hour-long chapters, and by the end it had managed to annoy an entire country.

The most recent time I heard the expression, it came from a neighbor, who was watching Venezuelan opposition politician Antonio Ledezma saying that the only way to push María Corina Machado’s presidential bid was by “engaging in civil disobedience.”

Ledezma, who mysteriously escaped house arrest for coup-plotting charges in 2017 and lives in exile in Spain, expressed that it was “normal” and “natural” for María Corina, who is currently serving a 15-year ban on holding public office, to be in contact with military officials to bring her 2024 plans to fruition.

In the meantime, Machado, probably the most fascist figure in Venezuelan politics, plows on with her campaign for the US-backed opposition primaries. Her key proposal is to “attract thousands of investments” through the “privatization of state companies, including (state oil company) PDVSA.”

Oil expert Evanan Romero, one of her economic advisors, explained that “there are a number of restrictive laws that must be modified or done away with,” and for that the far-right faction would need to secure an “ideologically aligned legislature” in the 2025 parliamentary elections.

One of these “restrictions” is of course the Venezuelan Constitution, which unambiguously establishes that the State “reserves to itself, […] for reasons of national expediency, the petroleum industry” and that it shall “retain all shares of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. or the organ created to manage the petroleum industry.” No wonder the opposition quickly got rid of the Constitution during the short-lived 2002 coup!

María Corina’s radical stance has once more exposed the fractures amidst opposition ranks. Even other anti-government candidates find her too extremist. Such is the case of Henrique Capriles Radonski (defeated in the 2012 and 2013 contests), who said that the proposal is ridiculous and that the oil wealth should belong to all Venezuelans.

Still, neither Machado, Capriles or any other opposition leader has shown the slightest interest in taking responsibility for the imminent loss of wealth that will come from the court-ordered sale of shares belonging to Citgo, PDVSA’s US-based subsidiary. The firm has been under opposition control thanks to the US government, which continues to “recognize” the opposition-majority parliament, whose term expired in 2021.

In fact, a few days ago, the opposition-appointed Citgo board asked the US Supreme Court to step in and stop the process. Still, the plaintiffs made a point of clarifying that the Nicolás Maduro government “lacks any authority to control PDVSA.”

No one is willing to publicly admit that it was precisely the Venezuelan opposition’s deluded circus of a “parallel government” headed by Juan Guaidó that led the Venezuelan people to lose billions of dollars from its foreign assets, even before Citgo’s impending doom. Not just that, very few opposition figures are willing to recognize the terrible harm caused by the US economic blockade.

They don’t recognize the widespread damage and get upset if other people do it. A prime example surfaced in recent weeks. A self-titled “Global Venezuelan Citizen Movement” wrote a letter rejecting a New York Times editorial called “The Risks of One of the Most Severe Tools in America’s Foreign Policy Arsenal.” Even the most iconic representative of the US media establishment cannot but admit to the damage sanctions have caused us.

The reply defended US sanctions because “in spite of some collateral damage, they mostly target officials responsible for human rights abuses, corruption and attacks against democracy.”

This “collateral damage” is more than 100,000 Venezuelans who died as a consequence of the blockade, many due to an inability to get medicines or medical treatment in time. To these we should add 80,000 HIV patients who could not access antiretroviral treatment and numerous others facing cancer, diabetes and other chronic conditions. To refer to this suffering in such a callous way is to show that opposition elitism is as strong as it was 25 years ago.

It’s also worth pointing out that the leader of this “citizen movement” is Humberto Calderón Berti, the same former oil minister who served as “ambassador” to Colombia under Guaidó. He would later leave and point the finger at the former “interim president’s” entourage for running up tabs on prostitutes and liquor using funds that had been destined for humanitarian aid. Surely that was “collateral damage” too…

Unfortunately, these “Abigails” are not part of an absurd soap opera script (though it might look like it) nor do they vanish once we turn off the TV (though we’d wish so). On the contrary, they are real and dangerous, and no one knows how many more chapters in Venezuelan politics are in store. US support assures us of a few more seasons.

By the way, the “More of this, Abigail?” quip would also fit perfectly to describe our unusual Attorney General’s Office that only issues arrest warrants for those who have already escaped, launches extradition requests and never follows through, and opens “investigations” by the dozen against professed traitors without ever charging them. The struggle continues…

Jessica Dos Santos is a Venezuelan university professor, journalist and writer whose work has appeared in outlets such as RT, Épale CCS magazine and Investig’Action. She is the author of the book “Caracas en Alpargatas” (2018). She’s won the Aníbal Nazoa Journalism Prize in 2014 and received honorable mentions in the Simón Bolívar National Journalism prize in 2016 and 2018.

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

Translated by Venezuelanalysis.