Venezuelan Opposition Legislator Decries MUD “Hidden Agenda”, Expelled Hours Later

Opposition legislator William Ojeda yesterday criticised a “hidden agenda” of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) opposition coalition. He was expelled from his political party a few hours later. 

By Ewan Robertson

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Opposition lawmaker William Ojeda was expelled from his A New Time (UNT) party a few hours after his public criticism of a “hidden agenda” by the opposition MUD coalition. (AVN)
Opposition lawmaker William Ojeda was expelled from his A New Time (UNT) party a few hours after his public criticism of a “hidden agenda” by the opposition MUD coalition. (AVN)
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Mérida, 7th September 2012 (Veneuelanalysis.com) – Opposition legislator William Ojeda yesterday criticised a “hidden agenda” of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) opposition coalition. He was expelled from his political party a few hours later.

In an unexpected press conference yesterday, the national assembly legislator for the opposition party A New Time (UNT) charged the MUD with developing a neoliberal economic package behind closed doors, to be implemented if opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski won the October 7 presidential election.

“Democrats in Venezuela don’t accept hidden agendas…or neoliberal obsessions,” he declared.

Ojeda was referring to an MUD economic policy document leaked to press two weeks ago, which advocates the deregulation of banks, opening up the economy to more private investment, and the reduction of state funding for public services and communal council projects.

The plan contrasts with Capriles’ official manifesto, leading David de Lima, a political independent who went to press with the document, to accuse the Capriles campaign of practicing a “double discourse”.

Ojeda, who declared his Christian moral conviction as the motive behind the announcements, criticised the policies outlined in the MUD document. “Those who aspire to apply macroeconomic adjustment along [neoliberal] orthodox lines are wrong, not understanding that [government] policies only make sense when they revolve around the people,” he said.

The opposition legislator also argued that despite holding differences with President Hugo Chavez’s government, to not recognise the social emphasis of the Chavez administration’s policies “would be an act of blindness”.

“They [Chavez’s social policies] can be improved, deepened and made more efficient, but we [the opposition] should begin by recognising the enormous work being done,” he stated.

Calls for Internal Debate

William Ojeda, whose UNT party is affiliated to the MUD, used his press conference to call for a “frank debate without any kind of hindrance” on the MUD’s program.

“No neoliberal policy on anyone’s agenda will be successful, because the people don’t accept [it],” he argued.

His comments are the first high-profile public call from within the opposition camp to discuss the leaked MUD document. It follows claims by David de Lima on 22 August that around half of the 22 political organisations affiliated to the MUD may be opposed to the document, but “there isn’t internal discussion”.

President Chavez, who is running for a third constitutional term in office, drew attention to the MUD document on Monday, exhorting that “a call must be made to the opposition and their candidate [Capriles] to speak about their government program, and say what their government program is”.

Opposition Reaction

A few hours after making his comments, William Ojeda was expelled from the UNT party.

UNT leader Alfonso Marquina declared Ojeda’s statements as “inopportune” and that “with these declarations the ex-compañero William Ojeda puts himself into the margins of the party” and the MUD coalition.

An official UNT statement released yesterday afternoon denied the existence of a “hidden agenda” and reiterated its support for Henrique Capriles, who it described as “progressive and nationalist”.

Ojeda also faced a barrage of criticism from opposition figures and sympathisers via social network Twitter. Capriles’ campaign coordinator, Leopoldo Lopez, questioned the motives behind Ojeda’s comments on his twitter account, asking “what is the price of a [national assembly] legislator?”

Pro-government newspaper Ciudad CCS observed that Venezuela’s private media limited reportage of Ojeda’s criticisms to placing links on low-profile sections of websites or focusing on the official opposition reaction to the comments.

Jose Guerra, the MUD’s economic advisor, today denied the accusations from Ojeda and others, saying “there’s no hidden agenda here, there’s no economic package that’s being imposed”.

Speaking in an interview on state television VTV, he further claimed that if elected Capriles would maintain and “improve” government social programs.

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