Venezuelan Opposition Leaders Call for Unity and Moderation

A new alliance of opposition parties has been formed, which rejected some opposition leaders' call for abstention in the upcoming December vote and urged the opposition to paticipate in the political struggle rather than to seek quick fixes for defeating Chavez.

Caracas, Venezuela, October 27, 2005—In a joint announcement, the General Secretaries of three of Venezuela’s main opposition parties, said that the opposition must defeat Chavez at the ballot box and not with a “rapid exit,” such as the “activation” of article 350 of Venezuela’s constitution, which specifies that Venezuelans have the right to reject an undemocratic government. They also rebuff some opposition leaders’ call for abstention in the upcoming legislative elections. Five parties supported this statement:  the social democratic party Democratic Action (AD), the Christian-democratic party Copei, the social democratic party Movement towards Socialism (MAS), the conservative party Project Venezuela, and the conservative-libertarian party Justice First (PJ).

According to the parties’ statement, the opposition took the path of civil resistance, “and it did not reach its goal. This is why we convoke the country for the political and electoral struggle.” Opposition parties, the anti-Chavez union federation CTV, and the employers’ federation Fedecamaras, were all deeply involved in the April 2002 coup attempt and the December 2002 to February 2003 shutdown of the nation’s oil industry. Many analysts have attributed the opposition’s subsequent losses at the ballot box to the failure of these actions.

Henry Ramos Allup, the General Secretary of AD, criticized sectors of the opposition that were calling for abstention and that are critical of the opposition parties that want to participate in the upcoming election. “We regret that there are recalcitrant sectors in the opposition that dedicate more of their time and imagination and of their infinite rhetorical resources to attack sectors that are participating,” said Ramos Allup.

Last week, the journalist Patricia Poleo, and the opposition politicians Antonio Ledezma and Oscar Perez joined with Cardinal Castillo Lara to issue a call to Venezuelans to resist the Chavez government by invoking article 350 of the Constitution. The opposition leader Leonardo Carvajal, who is the director of the civil society group “Assembly of Education,” said that these individuals are, “radicals who take advantage of the opinions of an elderly venerable cardinal, who is expert in Canon Law and who is new to the political fight, to present him as leader of their extremist current.”

According to the newspaper El Universal, the opposition has studied in great depth recent polling data, particularly with regard to the sectors of Venezuelan society that neither support nor oppose the government, the so-called “ni-nis.” Their study of the opinion polls shows that the government’s most vulnerable issue is concern over the “cubanization” of Venezuela. The opposition thus plans to focus on promoting a message in favor of liberty, the right to private property, personal advancement, and economic progress.

Also, the opposition is interested in arguing that the popular “missions,” which provide free health care, subsidized food, and educational programs for the country’s poorest are merely short-term measures and that what is needed instead are more permanent measures that provide equality of opportunity.

El Universal reports that one of the opposition’s main goals is for opposition candidates to the National Assembly to make an emotional connection with citizens, to win their trust, and to project themselves as their leaders. Also, candidates should be examples of humility.

President Chavez’s connection with his supporters is legendary and Venezuela’s opposition has so far failed to produce any national leaders that have come close to Chavez’s charisma and his ability to connect with ordinary Venezuelans.