Venezuela: Presidential Candidates Hit Campaign Trail, Opposition Faces US Funding Revelations

Maduro announced his electoral campaign team while US-backed candidate González held his first public appearance.
electoral campaign Guanare
The United Socialist Party (PSUV) held a rally on Saturday in Guanare, Portuguesa state. (@partidoPSUV)

Caracas, May 18, 2024 ( – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced his campaign team and strategy as he runs for reelection on July 28.

In a press conference on Thursday, Maduro appointed National Assembly President Jorge Rodríguez as electoral campaign coordinator. 

Socialist Party (PSUV) Vice President Diosdado Cabello, Miranda Governor Héctor Rodríguez, former Lara Governor Luis Reyes Reyes, Capital District Chief Nahum Fernández and First Lady Cilia Flores round up the coordination commission.

“We’ve taken an important step to defend the country from the threats it faces, to preserve the progress we’ve made and to win the July 28 battle,” the Venezuelan president told reporters.

Maduro went on to explain the different priorities for the campaign named “Our Venezuela” (“Venezuela Nuestra”) with a special focus on building national unity.

“Our campaign must mobilize and convince the people in the barrios, in their neighborhoods,” he added. “Let the mobilizations flourish!”

First elected in 2013 in a close battle with opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, Maduro won reelection in 2018 with Henri Falcón as his main contender. He now seeks a third term that would end in 2030.

Prior to the official campaign unveiling, the PSUV had already been staging massive rallies across the country in support of Maduro and denouncing unilateral US sanctions. Diosdado Cabello, who has led most mobilizations, told crowds in La Victoria (Aragua state) on Saturday that Maduro was “the people’s candidate” and had “shown no weakness in fighting imperialism.”

For his part, campaign chief Rodríguez also led a march in Guanare (Portuguesa state) on Saturday. “Our battle is to support Maduro and tell the gringos to get their claws off our country,” he wrote on X/Twitter.

Rodríguez recently argued that Venezuela’s electoral authorities should withdraw their invitation for the European Union to send an observation mission to the July 28 contest. The National Assembly president pointed at the EU policy of maintaining unilateral sanctions against the Caribbean nation.

Center-right candidate Antonio Ecarri criticized any plans to withdraw the EU invitation in a press conference on Wednesday, calling it a “measure to boost abstention.” 

In a separate interview, Ecarri expressed confidence in his electoral prospects and stated that abstention is “his biggest enemy.” The former Caracas mayoral candidate has presented a plan centered on boosting conditions for private capital, with policies including dollarization.

Ecarri is one of nine candidates going up against Maduro in the presidential race. Benjamin Rausseo, another political newcomer looking to sway undecided voters, has likewise ramped up his campaign in recent days.

A comedian and businessman, Rausseo urged fellow candidates to subscribe to a document pledging to undertake a respectful electoral campaign and to accept the results.

Edmundo González alongside María Corina Machado in La Victoria. (@EdmundoGU)

For his part, Edmundo González held his first public appearance at a rally in La Victoria on Saturday. González was picked by the US-backed “Unitary Platform” to run for Venezuela’s highest office in July.

In the past weeks, the former diplomat had only taken part in interviews and closed-door meetings while far-right politician María Corina Machado held outdoor rallies showing a poster with his picture. González’s absence had fueled criticism and speculation over his health.

“Today we are facing a historical crossroads,” the opposition candidate told supporters. “This is a defining process to reduce migration and make Venezuela a reliable partner.”

Machado, who has publicly endorsed sanctions and coup attempts, had vowed to pursue her presidential candidacy despite the Supreme Court upholding a disqualification over allegations of corruption and endangering Venezuelan assets abroad. She later relented and threw her support behind González.

The hardline opposition camp was recently shaken by revelations that Machado received US $3.2 million from US lobbying firm Howard Stirk Holdings (HSH) to fund her primary campaign.

A report published by Venezuela News featured documents leaked by journalist Patricia Lélis, including a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between HSH and Machado and an email from close Machado ally Pedro Urruchurtu confirming the $3.2 million financing. HSH reportedly has close ties to former Attorney General William Barr.

Lélis likewise revealed meetings between hardline opposition figures and representatives from Chevron, leading analysts to speculate that Machado was promising the US oil giant greater benefits in the Venezuelan oil industry.

Brazilian journalist Lélis claimed she was driven out of work in Washington DC for her left-leaning views and for investigating the US influence in Latin American politics. She is currently seeking asylum in Mexico after denouncing FBI persecution and death threats.