Venezuelan Socialist Party Gains One Million Members and Opposition Forms New Alliance

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has announced that the party grew by more than one million new members during a month-long registration drive in May. Meanwhile, most of the principal opposition parties in Venezuela have formed a new alliance called the "Democratic Unity Roundtable" (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática).

By James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.com

isturiz_PSUV.jpg

PSUV Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz (VTV)
PSUV Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz (VTV)
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Mérida, June 9th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) -- The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has announced that the party grew by more than one million new members during a month-long registration drive in May. Meanwhile, most of the principal opposition parties in Venezuela have formed a new alliance called the "Democratic Unity Roundtable" (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática).

In an interview on the state television channel VTV on Monday, Aristóbulo Istúriz, the vice president of the PSUV for the northeastern region, said the PSUV now has a total of 6.7 million members. Istúriz highlighted that 40% of the new members registered over the past month were under the age of 26, indicating solid support for the party among Venezuelan youth.

The PSUV began its formation in early 2007, when President Hugo Chávez called for all progressive and socialist parties to unite under one banner following his re-election to the presidency with 63% of the vote in December 2006. The total number of registered voters in Venezuela is more than 16 million.

On Monday, nearly a dozen opposition parties including Democratic Action (Acción Democrática), the Christian democratic party COPEI, Brave People's Alliance (Alianza Bravo Pueblo), A New Era (Un Nuevo Tiempo), Justice First (Primero Justicia), the social democratic party PODEMOS, and others announced that they had agreed to "work in unity" against the government of President Hugo Chávez, but they did not announce a specific united political platform.

Over the past four years, opposition parties have periodically united in support of candidates for elected office and against the constitutional changes put to the public vote by the Chávez government, but opposition leaders say this new alliance, called the "Democratic Unity Roundtable," is more than an electoral strategy.

"It is not an electoral alliance... in the circumstances in which we must discuss elections, we will discuss them," said COPEI President Luis Ignacio Planas, speaking for the new opposition bloc.

Planas extended an invitation to all NGOs, civil society groups, students, worker unions, and other civil society groups "that aspire toward an open society, without hateful discriminations and unjust exclusions" to join the united front.

The organization will form commissions at the national, regional, and local levels to manage civil society relations, strategy, program, organization and mobilization, youth, human rights and justice, social issues, international issues, electoral issues, and anti-corruption, according to Planas.

"It is necessary to recuperate the humanist sense in politics, placing the human being as the central concern of the leadership of the whole society and the action of the state," said Planas, echoing the values frequently advocated by President Chávez and the PSUV. "Unity is the alternative to an unfulfilled promise, most of all for the poorest people," he said.

Planas said the new bloc will defend Venezuela's constitution, which was written by an elected assembly and approved in a national vote in 1999 as part of President Chávez's first major political project after taking office that same year. The 1999 Constitution, considered one of the most progressive in the world, replaced the forty year old constitution touted by the parties Democratic Action and COPEI throughout the neoliberal policies of the preceding decades.   

Most of the parties in the new alliance are the same parties which formed an alliance called the Democratic Coordinator between 2002 and 2004. This group was notorious for having participated in a general strike, oil industry shut down, and U.S.-backed military coup d'etat with the stated intention of ousting Chávez, dissolving the 1999 Constitution, and revoking the land reform and hydrocarbon nationalization laws based on that constitution.

On Monday, Istúriz said the new opposition alliance "is nothing other than a caricature of the Democratic Coordinator to plan violent destabilization, sabotage, death, and everything else the [Democratic] Coordinator implied." The Democratic Unity Roundtable "is neither a unity nor democratic," said Istúriz.

Planas, during Monday's press conference, said, "This [roundtable] isn't trying to be a new version of the Democratic Coordinator. That group seems to be linked in the national imagination to strikes, coups, and murders let loose in the street. That is not what is intended now."

Planas also expressed the Roundtable's solidarity with the private television station Globovision, which has been heavily criticized by the Chávez government for allegedly inciting panic and violence in the population through constant false and alarmist reporting. "Here, as a citizen's duty, we express our solidarity with Globovision," said Planas.

Last week, the National Communications Commission fined Globovision US $3 million for evading taxes on advertising and using unauthorized microwaves. The opposition party Alianza Bravo Pueblo announced over the weekend that it would gather donations to help Globovision pay the fine.

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