Opposition March Marred by Poor Turnout and Embarrassing Blunders

Around three thousand opposition supporters are reported to have taken to the streets on Saturday in response to calls by jailed politician, Leopoldo Lopez, to march against the Venezuelan government. 

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JAVU activists attending Saturday’s march (Ultimas Noticias)
JAVU activists attending Saturday’s march (Ultimas Noticias)
By Rachael Boothroyd
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Caracas, June 1st 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - A march called by jailed opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, last Saturday was marred by poor turnout, political divisions and embarrassing blunders.  

On May 23rd, Lopez leaked a video from inside Ramo Verde military prison where he is being held, announcing that both he and arrested former Mayor of San Cristobal Daniel Ceballos would participate in a hunger strike until a series of demands, including their liberation, were met. He also called on Venezuelans to “peacefully” take to the streets en masse last Saturday to demand a “change”. 

But just three thousand opposition supporters are reported to have responded to Lopez’s calls to march against the Venezuelan government and to secure the release of Lopez and Ceballos. Both men belong to the far right Popular Will party founded by Lopez  and were arrested last year for promoting the deadly protests against the government known as the barricades. 

The rally, which fell well short of securing the high levels of political participation seen in the opposition marches of 2013-2014, was also effectively boycotted by the principal opposition coalition, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD). The coalition cited “circumstances” which precluded its participation, despite alleging that it supported the impetus behind the march. 

In spite of the MUD no-show, Saturday’s main rally was attended by Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori and ultra-right opposition hardliner, Maria Corina Machado, who both addressed the crowd.  

Mitzy Capriles de Ledezma, wife of jailed former Mayor of the Metropolitan District of Caracas Antonio Ledezma also made an appearance, alongside Ceballos’ wife and current Mayor of San Cristobal, Patricia Ceballos, who arrived sporting a new hairdo after having renounced her long locks in protest of her husband’s incarceration. They were accompanied by the ex-presidents of Colombia and Bolivia, Andres Pastrana and Jorge Quiroga.

Although the rally was widely expected to be attended by 2012 and 2013 opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, he was nowhere to be seen on the day. Capriles had previously stated that he would flout the MUD’s abstention position on the march calling for “unity without division”.  

Press reports suggest that Capriles attended a smaller march in Guarico state, where he attempted to pay a visit to Daniel Ceballos in his new place of confinement. The reports seem to be confirmed by a Twitter update from Capriles on Saturday confirming that he was returning from Guarico and demanding “freedom for all political prisoners”.  

While Saturday’s Caracas rally went off without violence, a series of hard right “youth activists” from JAVU (Active Youth, United Venezuela) travelled from Tachira to the event to solicit financial support and donations from the opposition. They allegedly left without being received.  

Family members of those who were imprisoned for their role in the 2002 coup against then president Chavez were also reported to have been denied the right to address the crowd by Popular Will’s leadership, provoking accusations of autocracy.  

The opposition’s remaining political speeches were overshadowed by an unfortunate “t-shirt” incident. The gaff involved opposition legislator, Richard Blanco, who accidentally revealed that he was wearing the Spanish football team’s shirt instead of Venezuela’s as he had claimed. 

In his own “David Cameron” moment, Blanco proudly yelled in the middle of an impassioned speech, "[I'm] going to remove my t-shirt, if you’ll permit me, to reveal the shirt that we all have to have, the shirt of unity, the shirt of Venezuela on our chests!!!!” before disrobing to reveal Spain’s 2013-2014 Adidas home football kit.

Recordings of the blunder went viral on social and state media. 

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