Caracas, February 12th 2015 (Venezuelanalysis) Three leading figures of the Venezuelan opposition have released a statement amounting to a demand for regime change and the establishment of a transitional government in the country.
Entitled “The Call for a National Transition Agreement,” the statement was circulated this Wednesday and appeals to Venezuelans to unite behind a national plan aimed at supplanting the current socialist administration of President Nicolas Maduro, elected on April 14th 2013 with approximately 51% of the vote.
Its signatories include currently jailed leader of the Popular Will Party, Leopoldo Lopez, former National Assembly Legislator, Maria Corina Machado and current Mayor of the Metropolitan Capital District of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma.
All of the signatories are linked to the violent guarimbas or barricades which began in February 2014, when violent protestors and paramilitaries blocked the streets for several months in response to calls by Lopez and Machado to force the “exit” of the Maduro government.
“Our call is to construct an agreement to take the lead in the transition to peace. It is the obligation of all democrats to help resolve the current crisis, defend the cause of liberty, and prevent the unavoidable fall of the regime from disrupting the peace and constitutionality of the country, to make the transition, that’s to say, the change from one failed system to another which is full of hope,” reads the text.
The publication of the statement comes just a day before the first anniversary of the barricades and represents a clear violation of the country’s Bolivarian Constitution, which only allows for the removal of the elected President of the Republic via a national referendum or indictment by the Supreme Court of Justice.
In the text, the current government is described as a “failed” “corrupt” and “inefficient” regime, made up of an “elite of no more 100 people” who have pilfered public funds “which could have been used for the benefit of all”. It also states that Venezuela is on the brink of a “humanitarian crisis” whilst the Maduro government is “delegitimised” and in its “terminal phase”.
The move comes amidst a mounting economic war against the country’s socialist revolution which has seen private businesses hoarding essential goods in order to cause public unrest, as well as a fresh round of US sanctions imposed on Venezuelan officials earlier in February.
The latest text calls on all sectors of society, from students to the Armed Forces and “regardless of political affiliation” to give “solidity” to the decisions that “must be adopted in order to emerge from the crisis”. It has been likened to a similar opposition declaration published just a month before the attempted coup of April 2002 against President Hugo Chavez, entitled “Bases for a Democratic Agreement”.
Signed by the head of the Confederation of Venezuela Workers (CTV), Carlos Ortega and President of Venezuela’s business federation, FEDECAMARAS, Pedro Carmona Estanga, the “Bases for a Democratic Agreement” document was dubbed the “Post-Chavez Plan” in both national and international press. Carmona himself would go on to become temporary president in the illegal government which took power in the 47 hours following the coup. Both texts appear to share similar demands and language.
“We consider the exit of Mr. Chavez from the presidency to be imminent… This pact is born out of looking towards a transitional government, because the Chavez administration is in its death throes, it is in intensive care, and its inefficiency is threatening to take us into a situation of ungovernability,” stated Ortega at the time.
The “National Transitional Agreement”: What it actually says
According to the latest text, the National Transitional Agreement should be based on three “agendas,” relating to civil liberties, social issues and the economy.
The first agenda states that one of the priorities of the provisional government would be to “free all political prisoners…facilitate the return of all those in exile… and prepare and carry out free and transparent presidential elections”.
It also includes a demand which appears to reveal an intention to prosecute current members of the Maduro administration, stating that the new transitional government would petition the country’s judicial system to “open up cases for serious crimes” which were committed “with government impunity”.
The second agenda is framed as a response to what the opposition has described as the country’s “social emergency” and promises to bring to an end shortages of medicines and food, as well as to “dismantle the criminal networks which proliferate thanks to impunity and the complicity of the current regime”.
The economic plan of the would-be transitional government is detailed in the last section of the agendas, where the signatories state their intention to designate a new management body for Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, and reinsert Venezuela into “international financial organisations, and to secure from them the funds needed to overcome short term difficulties”.
The economic agenda also suggests that the future of Venezuela under an opposition government would include a liberalised economy and a reversal of State nationalisations. This would include “reaching an agreement for just reparations for damages caused by arbitrary expropriations, revising the real condition of all non-oil enterprises which ended up in the hands of the State due to the greed of the regime, and deciding on the forms of property and management which they can take on in order to assure their productive recovery”.
“It is necessary to dismantle the tangled mess of controls which are strangling the economy and rebuild the juridic and economic bases which are necessary to attract productive investment with guarantees stable growth into the future,” continues the text.
Maria Corina Machado is the daughter of Henrique Machado Zuloaga, Director of the steel company SIVENSA and one of the main businesses to take control of the state steel company, SIDOR, when it was privatised in 1993. SIDOR was re-nationalised by the Chavez government in 2008. Leopoldo Lopez is also related to the founders of Polar, one of the most powerful food businesses in Venezuela. POLAR is responsible for the production of corn flour, a staple food in Venezuela used to make arepas.
All three of the politicians to have signed the document participated in the 2002 attempted coup against President Hugo Chavez.