Hardline Venezuelan Opposition Relents and Agrees to Participate in Elections

Opposition figure Henry Ramos Allup said the decision to take part in the vote had the blessing of the United States, Canada, and the European Union.

Veteran politician Henry Ramos Allup announced that hardline elements of the Venezuelan opposition would run in regional elections.

Mexico City, Mexico, September 1, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan opposition parties, including extremist elements that had boycotted the electoral process for years, announced Tuesday that they would participate in November’s regional elections.

The decision by the self-styled Unitary Platform—comprised of Democratic Action, Popular Will, Justice First and A New Era —marks an important departure for the hardline elements that had opted not to take part in elections since 2017. Instead, the US-backed forces backed coup plots and schemes aimed at taking power by force.

Speaking to the press, veteran Venezuelan politician Henry Ramos Allup said that the candidates would run under the banner of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), which was recently resurrected by the country’s electoral authority.

Ramos said he respected those who disagreed with participating but likewise called on them to respect their position.

“To those who believe that the solution is not through elections… What is the solution?” asked Ramos.

The opposition politician added that the decision to take part in regional elections had the blessing of the United States, Canada, and the European Union.

The announcement by the Unitary Platform comes only days before the opposition and the government of President Nicolás Maduro are due to meet in Mexico City for a second round of negotiations.

Moderate opposition parties had previously announced their intention to field candidates for the November 21 governor and mayor races. The late-hour decision by the Unitary Platform represents a challenge for the forces that make up the MUD coalition as other parties have been preparing for the vote for months. There have been no reports of the different sectors agreeing on single candidacies, and given the short timeline some observers warn that the opposition will end up splitting the vote in all areas.

Electoral authorities extended the deadline for candidates registering until September 1 to allow the opposition coalition to submit its list. However, the names of the politicians running for office was not available at the time of writing.

Former two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles of the Justice First party had been one of the most active voices in calling on the opposition to abandon the insurrectionary strategy promoted by Leopoldo López and the self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaidó, both from Popular Will.

Rumors that the hardline opposition would drop its election-boycotting stance and field candidates had been circulating for days. Notably, the press conference held by Henry Ramos Allup did not count on the presence of Guaidó. Asked about the US-backed leader’s position, Ramos stressed that “Guaidó is not a party,” and that Popular Will was in agreement.

The decision by the recalcitrant anti-government segments to participate represents another setback for Guaidó, who has been increasingly marginalized after his failure to exercise any real political power or oust the Maduro government despite declaring himself president and counting on the support of the United States, Canada, and the European Union.

The former lawmaker and his international backers had previously maintained that they would not endorse any political solution without Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro stepping down and new presidential elections being held.

Maduro, for his part, has long called on the extremist opposition to participate in elections and welcomed Tuesday’s announcement but also used the opportunity to poke fun at Guaidó’s change of tune.

“I’m going to sit in my armchair, with the television on and my popcorn, to see Juan Guaidó voting on November 21st,” the president said during a televised broadcast.

The next round of talks between the Maduro government and the opposition is expected to take place this weekend in Mexico. Caracas is seeking relief from US-led sanctions that have exacerbated an economic crisis that has seen Venezuela’s GDP contract by almost 70 percent since 2013.

In a statement co-signed by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that Washington and its allies were willing “to review sanctions policies if the regime makes meaningful progress in the announced talks.”

Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.