Divisions Emerge in Venezuela’s Opposition As Some Claim Government is “Illegitimate”

Divisions have emerged among Venezuela’s opposition leaders in recent days as some have called for taking a more hardline position against a government they claim to be “illegitimate”.


Punto Fijo, January 24th, 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Divisions have emerged among Venezuela’s opposition leaders in recent days as some have called for taking a more hardline position against a government they claim to be “illegitimate”.

Prominent figures within the opposition unity coalition (MUD) such as Maria Corina Machado and Diego Arria have refused to recognize the current government, saying it is “unconstitutional” and “illegitimate” due to the fact Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has yet to be sworn-in for the 2013-2019 term.

“We have an illegitimate government in Venezuela. It is illegitimate because it is not recognizing the popular will, and is brutally violating the constitution,” said Machado last week after walking out on a speech by Vice President Nicolas Maduro before the National Assembly.

In addition, several opposition leaders including Machado and Arria have been accused of calling for a military intervention after a letter to the Venezuelan Armed Forces bearing the names of many prominent opposition leaders circulated on the Internet earlier this week.

The document calls on the “democratic society and Armed Forces to reestablish the constitution and liberate the country from Cuban control,” alleging that Venezuela has been subjected to a “Castro-communist” invasion in which Cubans have infiltrated all state institutions.

The letter closes with a call to the Armed Forces to “step forward and stop the dissolution of the homeland”.

None of the opposition leaders who are listed as signatories have commented on the document, nor denied their involvement with it, while state officials have pledged to investigate who is behind it.

“This is an open call to renounce the authority of the government,” said pro-Chavez legislator Tania Diaz to the National Assembly on Tuesday.

However, other opposition leaders such as Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski have taken a more moderate position, choosing to recognize the government as legitimate after the Supreme Court ruled that Chavez’s swearing-in could be postponed.

“We don’t agree with it, but it’s the decision of the Supreme Court,” said Capriles.

Capriles’ position has come under fire in recent days from hardliners within the opposition coalition, especially after he greeted and shook hands with Vice President Nicolas Maduro at a recent event.

“Instead of confronting [the government], they accommodate it. Capriles says he’s willing to cooperate. Its very irresponsible,” said Diego Arria earlier this week.

Conflict also emerged regarding Wednesday’s opposition rally that was originally intended to be a march, but was later changed to a much smaller event indoors, allegedly to avoid conflict with pro-Chavez marchers.

“They are criticizing us because we don’t want to have a large rally. They want a war in the streets,” said Capriles, accusing people like Arria of trying to benefit from a messy situation.

“There are people who aren’t in the MUD coalition. They come in when it suits them, with electoral interests, but they aren’t a part of the MUD,” said Capriles.

Capriles assured that those who are calling on the opposition to not recognize the legitimacy of the government are a small minority, and that the majority of the MUD coalition respects the Supreme Court’s decision to postpone the swearing-in.

But despite internal differences, Venezuela’s opposition appears united behind Henrique Capriles as the most likely candidate if new presidential elections are called in the coming months.

At Wednesday’s rally, MUD Executive Secretary Ramon Guillermo Aveledo promised that a single presidential candidate would be chosen “by consensus” in the event of new elections, and though he did not say who the candidate would be, the crowd immediately began to chant Capriles’ name.

If Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were unable to overcome his battle with cancer and continue as president, new elections would have to be called. However, state officials have said recently that Chavez is slowly recovering from last month’s operation, and could soon be returning from Cuba.