Mérida, 25th November 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s political opposition marched on Saturday to mobilise support ahead of the 8 December municipal elections.
Held two weeks before Venezuelans will elect mayors and local councillors across the country, demonstrators also protested against what they called the “economic crisis” and “corrupt” law-making powers handed to President Nicolas Maduro by the National Assembly last week.
While the opposition’s Democratic Unity Table (MUD) coalition called on supporters to gather in each of the country’s 335 municipalities, the main event took place in central Caracas, where opposition leader Henrique Capriles and other MUD leaders spoke.
In his speech Capriles criticised the government’s management of the economy and exhorted supporters to show their discontent by voting for the MUD’s candidates in the municipal elections.
“If they [the government] win on 8D, all the chaos we are experiencing is going to deepen. Here [Caracas] is the only area in the country where things aren’t as difficult in the interior. This can get worse, and we can’t remain with our arms folded,” he declared.
Opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez, Maria Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma were also present. Supporters waved banners accusing the government of being “terrorist” and “famine-causing”, while other placards demanded “Cubans out of Venezuela”.
Speakers also criticised the arrest of Capriles’ campaign aide Alejandro Silva by intelligence police early on Saturday morning. The arrest appears to have been made after Maduro ordered the detention of two opposition “operators” who he alleged were trying to contract motorbike riders to dress in red and provoke violent scenes at Saturday’s march.
Alejandro Silva, who is in charge of coordinating Capriles’ campaign tours, was released late Saturday. In a press conference on Sunday he said that during his arrest and questioning he was treated “with respect” but argued that his temporary detention was “arbitrary” and “outside of any legal framework”.
While media estimates of those turning out for the opposition’s day of protest on Saturday differ, the numbers appear to be less than hoped for.
Reuters reported that “tens of thousands” took part in demonstrations across the country as a whole.
In the main march in central Caracas foreign press estimated that between 2,000 and 5,000 people attended, which the BBC compared unfavourably with the roughly 300,000 who turned out to hear Capriles speak in Caracas before the presidential elections last October.
“This was more of a political myth than a march,” said one participant.
The BBC also reported that in many municipalities opposition supporters did not turn out to march at all.
United Socialist Party (PSUV) lawmaker Jesus Montilla labelled the march as a “resounding failure”.
“It was really embarrassing. Not even their parties accompanied them [opposition leaders], it makes you feel bad for them,” he said in a press release.