Melodramatic But...

 We’ll get started with this week’s Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment, “Blatant Disregard”, in a moment but first…Caracas Chronicles had a piece titled “Maduro’s Evil Plan To Fragment The Opposition”. I know it’s a bit melodramatic but I like the way they presented it. The article used “DC Comics” references to explain Maduro’s strategy heading toward the 2024 presidential election in Venezuela and it was quite complicated, especially if you are unfamiliar with Venezuelan politics which are as convoluted and complicated as it gets. Let’s see if we can simplify it…

 First is Maduro’s new narrative, referring to the opposition as “oppositions” (key point …the plural, “oppositions”). By it’s nature it splits the anti- Chavismo vote with a group of “OPPINO” (Opposition In Name Only) parties. He has even managed to get three of them included in the Mexico talks between the Maduro regime and the Unity Platform coalition so now it’s not the “opposition” but “oppositions”.

 Second is now that we’ve seen the agreement in Mexico on the $3 billion UN-managed humanitarian fund talks will center on free and fair elections, Human Rights, and political prisoners as well as inclusion of voting by Venezuelans abroad (over 7 million Venezuelan migrants and counting), something that Maduro will never allow with his 5% approval rating. Any election reforms will involve OPPINOs, not genuine anti- Chavista (anti- Maduro) parties or candidates.

 This brings us to Maria Corina Machado. Maduro has invited representatives of OPPINO parties to Miraflores (presidential palace) and has them included alongside the Unitary Platform in the Mexico negotiations (there is currently no date set for the next meeting between the two sides) to show he’s open to talking to the “oppositions” but he won’t talk to Maria Corina Machado or her party, VENTE. They are real opposition (no “s”). She proposed widespread privatization of entities currently government-owned (expropriated by the government then failed, the pattern of Chavismo and 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism). Machado’s party is outside the Unitary Platform but has shown closer relations with them than we saw with the previous opposition coalition. She’s still opposed to the Mexico talks with the Maduro regime, describing them as “a blackmail table”, and the “social agreement” (the proposed UN-managed fund) which she described as a “vulture taking care of meat” (obviously not trusting the Chavistas). She remains true to her position (which she’s had from day one)that Venezuela has no future that includes Maduro.

 As we head into primaries and toward the 2024 presidential election we may see Maduro add “oppositions” and make cosmetic concessions but the only thing that’s certain, the rhetoric’s not going anywhere.

 Then we have VOA telling us that censorship is on the rise in Venezuela according to media analysts. The 104 radio stations closed in 2022 is the most since 2001 when Chavismo was in it’s infancy of oppression and destruction. Now Maduro’s National Assembly is proposing a law requiring social media platforms to have an office in Venezuela. Vice President, Delcy Rodriguez, says additional regulation is necessary because Venezuela has been the victim of psychological warfare in the past. As we’ve often said, the Chavistas love playing the victim card. (Would you sign up for a posting in Caracas knowing that the Chavistas could throw you in jail at any time using their vaguely-worded “hate law”?)

 And we have Reuters reporting that the Venezuela opposition has appointed three exiled lawmakers to take over leadership, Dinorah Figuera, Marianela Fernandez, and Auristela Vasquez. They will direct the 2015 national Assembly and create a commission to control foreign assets, most notably CITGO. Just for the record, I’ve never heard of the three.

 Now let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 11 – Blatant Disregard…

 Nicolas Maduro was elected president of Venezuela in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chavez. The election was extremely close and there have been widespread allegations that his opponent, Henrique Capriles, actually won. For our purposes here, let’s assume Maduro really did win fair and square. The presidential term in Venezuela is six years and Maduro demonstrated early on that it would be a long six years. The “Guarimba” of 2014 left over 40 dead and hundreds wounded as people protested food shortages and Maduro let it be known that he would respond to protesters with bullets and jail time.

 Opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, who called for peaceful, I repeat PEACEFUL, demonstrations was jailed for inciting violence and instability. He spent over three years in prison (which would have been shorter except he refuse to make a deal with Maduro) and a couple more under house arrest before taking shelter at the Spanish Embassy and eventually fleeing to Spain. I used to joke, “If you think this is bad just wait a few years and we’ll consider this the ‘good old days’ “. It turns out that may have been the height of Maduro’s popularity.

 In 2015 Venezuela had elections for the National Assembly, similar to US congressional elections. Although Maduro’s popularity was on the decline it was widely thought that it would be difficult for the opposition to overcome the Chavista political machine. The drop in oil prices had already hit but with the elections coming up Maduro borrowed $5 billion from the Chinese so the Chavistas could deliver the expected largess.

 Then came the big December surprise. With a high voter turnout of over 74% the opposition swept to victory in 112 of 167 races. This gave them 67% of the seats in the assembly. With the 2/3 super majority, just barely, they would have wide latitude to effect a lot of changes including appointments (and firings) in the TSJ, Venezuela’s Supreme Court, and even a possible presidential recall election. Optimism was high that after a decade and a half of Chavismo change was in the air.

 More tomorrow….

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