Mérida, 15th August 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The opposition Democratic Unity Table (MUD) coalition has agreed to remain united and adopt common strategic priorities in the coming period. The development occurs as a hard-line faction of the opposition launches a new initiative which does not include several major MUD parties.
The MUD coalition, which groups together 25 political parties in opposition to the incumbent Venezuelan government, suffered internal divisions earlier this year after hard-liners launched a strategy of street unrest called “The Exit (La Salida)”. Street protests and militant opposition barricades from February to May aimed to put pressure on the administration of President Nicolas Maduro, including open calls for his resignation.
The unrest led to over 40 deaths, including opposition activists, government supporters, bystanders and members of security forces. The events created public disagreements between “radicals” and “moderates” in the opposition over how to build support and win power.
In this context, the MUD faced an uncertain future when its executive secretary, Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, resigned from his post at the end of last month, which he had held since 2009.
Nevertheless following closed door meetings earlier this week, MUD parties have announced their intention to maintain the unity of the coalition and to elect a new permanent executive secretary, perhaps within the next month. According to one spokesperson, the fact that opposition parties have greater electoral prospects against the government when they run on a united ticket was a key consideration behind the decision.
“The MUD is refreshing itself, renewing itself, consolidating itself and it continues being committed to the political change that the country deserves and needs,” said Delsa Solorzano of the New Time (UNT) party to press on behalf of the coalition on Thursday. “We’re going to begin a new stage.”
Agreed priorities include pushing for the renewal of public powers such as the National Electoral Council (CNE), the incorporation of more “civil society” figures into the coalition, preparing for the 2015 National Assembly elections, and campaigning on government inadequacies believed to cause discontent within the population.
The organisation stated its aim is to win power through elections to create a “unity government for national reconstruction and reconciliation”. In the strategic document, the coalition also characterised the government as “anti-democratic”, “hegemonic” and “of totalitarian vocation”.
At the same time as the MUD’s closed door meetings took place, a right-wing faction of the opposition launched a new strategy aimed at mobilising supporters in “citizen assemblies” and building toward a “citizen congress”.
The initiative is promoted by the organisers of “The Exit”, in particular by former parliamentarian Maria Corina Machado, metropolitan mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma, and the Popular Will (VP) party, whose leader Leopoldo Lopez is currently under trial for charges relating to his alleged role in the unrest earlier this year.
In an event in the El Hatillo theatre in Caracas on Tuesday, a range of political and society figures representing this wing of the opposition spoke of the need to achieve “change” immediately, with opposition parliamentarian Americo de Garcia arguing that the “citizen assemblies” should be a mechanism to “organise, agitate and motivate the people…for the necessary transformation”.
However several major parties of the MUD have decided not to participate in the initiative, including Justice First (PJ), Democratic Action (AD), and COPEI.
Henrique Capriles (PJ), Miranda state governor and two-time presidential candidate, revealed the differences within the opposition in an interview on Sunday, when he rejected the “citizen congress” strategy.
“I’m one of those who think that it’s impossible to achieve change in our country without integrating and incorporating the people that live in our barrios (poor urban neighbourhoods),” he said.
The Justice First leader continued, “On the other hand, there are others that think that the people that live in barrios or support the government aren’t necessary. They think that the group they represent is enough to make change and take power.”
Diosdado Cabello, the vice president of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), also criticised the “citizen congress” initiative, arguing that it was evidence that the MUD coalition was riven by personal ambitions and was on the point of breaking up.
“Beginning with the fracture in the MUD, now there are new ruptures. The “citizen congress” seeks to weigh forces against the parties AD and COPEI,” he said on state television VTV yesterday.
The MUD has stated that it considers the “citizen congress” initiative as part of the overall aims of the coalition, even if not all opposition parties participate.