Venezuelan Opposition Aims to Win in Municipal Elections by Winning Over Maduro’s Followers

A key strategy of Venezuela’s political opposition for the upcoming Dec. 8 municipal elections will be to win over the followers of President Nicolás Maduro and late President Hugo Chávez, governor of Miranda state and opposition leader Henrique Capriles indicated in his weekly internet column yesterday.

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Opposition leader Henrique Capriles (Archive)
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles (Archive)
By Sascha Bercovitch
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Caracas, July 8th 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – A key strategy of Venezuela’s political opposition for the upcoming Dec. 8 municipal elections will be to win over the followers of President Nicolás Maduro and late President Hugo Chávez, governor of Miranda state and opposition leader Henrique Capriles indicated in his weekly internet column yesterday.

“It's time to talk to those who for some time believed in a model that has already failed, but who had put their hope in him [Maduro]. We have to continue letting them know that they have a place in our idea of the future,” Capriles wrote.

Capriles has been named the head of the opposition’s campaign for the Dec. 8 municipal elections in which 335 mayoral posts, the majority held by government supporters, will be contested throughout the country. In the April 14 presidential election to replace Chávez, Maduro won in 239 municipalities, with his majority coming from less populated and rural areas, while Capriles won in 96 municipalities, including the majority of urban areas.

Two posts considered of particular importance are Caracas’ eastern municipality of Sucre, which includes the working-class city of Petare that was once a chavista stronghold, and Maracaibo, the capital of the oil-rich Zulia state. Opposition leaders have been governing both districts for the past four years.

According to a recent poll conducted by the private Venezuelan firm Hinterlaces, the current odds for the elections seem to favor the opposition.

“The most probable outcome is that if the elections were today, the victory would go to the opposition,” Hinterlaces President Oscar Schmel said this morning. He noted, “More than 60 percent of Venezuelans are only concerned with economic problems, while a little more than 30 percent are concerned with political issues.”

At the same time, Schmel added that around 80 percent of those polled respected the “model of inclusion” advanced by the government.

“The Bolivarian Revolution changed the country,” he said. “That's the general thought, independent of one's political position. Evidently, there were very important symbolic changes in the country, and the model of inclusion is supported by the majority.”

Amid Polarization, Church Calls Both Sides to Dialogue

Although the poll indicated that the country was moving toward depolarization, other political voices disagree. In a column published today, journalist and former Vice President José Vicente Rangel wrote that the high interest in the elections following Maduro’s close victory on April 14 makes them “atypical.”

“December 8th will be marked by a strong political imprint, within the framework of a polarization that does not lower its intensity,” he said.

Last night on his weekly television program, Rangel described Colombia as “the base of conspiracy against Venezuela,” after claiming that war planes bought in the United States by the opposition were now located at an American military base in Colombia.

Rangel’s accusation implicated those from “the far right in the country, supporters of [former Colombian President Alvaro] Uribe, powerful economic groups, retired military officers, the media, the petroleum company Pacific Rubiales, and the intense activity carried out by sectors of the Venezuelan opposition who move around freely in Colombia.” Though he did not disclose a source for his information, he called on citizens to be “alert and conscious … [of] subversion of constitutional order.”

On the same program, President of Venezuela’s Episcopal Conference (CEV) Diego Padrón called for dialogue between the government and the opposition that he said the Church was willing to facilitate.

“When the CEV intervenes or gives a critique, it does it to make a point,” he said. “For example, when we say that insecurity is an important problem, it's because we have to pay attention to it. The institutions and the Church should play a role in civic life.”

Both sides seem to be taking steps toward discourse. Deputy Edgar Zambrano indicated that the opposition would begin ongoing visits to the CEV so that "they have a well-constructed view on what the political parties think,” while Minister of Justice and the Interior Miguel Rodríguez Torres met with the country’s ecclesiastical hierarchy earlier today.

The meeting included discussion of the Church’s role in the newly-implemented crime fighting program Plan Patria Segura, or Secure Homeland. Rodriguez, added that a meeting the following week with parishes from several states would allow for the proposal of “joint working agenda.”

“We hope to maintain this dialogue, this honest conversation so that together we can build the society we all want,” he said.