The Venezuelan Opposition Divides: What Happened?

By Nestor Rojas Mavares (dpa)

Juan Pablo Guinapa, the opposition governor elected in Zulia refused to submit to Maduro’s Constituent Assembly. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Venezuela’s opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), is on the verge of splitting up nearly two years after its landslide victory in the legislative elections in December 2015.

The former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, from the Justice First (PJ) party announced that he would be leaving the coalition condemning the decision that four opposition governors from the Democratic Action (AD) party headed by Henry Ramos Allup made of swearing themselves in before president Maduro’s Constituent Assembly after the October 15th elections.

What are the MUD’s origins?

The Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition was created on January 23rd 2008 to formally oppose the government led by then president Hugo Chavez. It is made up of 18 parties, among them the AD, PJ, A New Era (UNT) and Popular Will (VP), headed by Leopoldo Lopez who is currently under house arrest; hold the greatest influence when it comes to decision-making.

Their objective is to uphold a platform where they can challenge the Government at the polls. Their greatest victory came during the legislative elections on December 5, 2015 when they won 112 out of 167 seats in the National Assembly. It has just suffered a defeat in the October 15th regional elections, where Maduro’s candidates won 18 out of the 23 states.

Why did Capriles decide to leave the coalition?

The opposition leader announced that he was leaving the MUD in protest of the step that four elected opposition governors took (in Anzoategui, Antonio Barreto; in Medica, Ramon Guevara; in Nueva Esparta, Alfredo Diaz and in Tachira, Laidy Gomez) when they were sworn in by the Constituent Assembly, after the coalition had assured that it wouldn’t subordinate itself to the Constituent Assembly.

Capriles holds the AD’s Secretary-General, Henry Ramos Allup, responsible for this decision and believes that this is a part of his plan to become a candidate in the presidential elections. “I won’t be in the MUD while Ramon is,” Capriles said and called it a “betrayal” to voters who voted for these governors, all of whom supported by AD, for them to go and be sworn in before the Constituent Assembly. Plus, he called Zulia’s elected governor and leader of his party the PJ, Juan Pablo Guanipa’s position honorable, who refused to be sworn in before the Constituent Assembly.

What is Ramos Allup’s position?

The lawmaker said that governors were declared “self-excluding” from the party due to them deciding to be sworn in without the coalition’s authorization, he claims. Ramos himself has called the Constituent Assembly a “Prostitute” body, as he believes it is a fraudulent body that was created as a result of the outrageous elections on July 30th, which is only dominated by one sector, Chavism. “It seems inappropriate, unsuitable, that amidst this political crisis, we begin to shoot at each other,” he said after Capriles’ announcement.

What has the impact of this split been on the opposition and government?

This division has caught the opposition at a bad time, with the government becoming stronger and institutionalizing its power with its victory in the regional elections and at a time when the country is already looking forward to the presidential elections.

As well as abstention, which meant lost votes for the opposition in the October 15th elections – for some groups, taking part in the polls was to betray the victims of the protest. There have also been fights between the main parties of MUD, which faced Capriles being banned from running for office as well as Leopoldo Lopez who is serving his sentence under house-arrest. Ramos Allup is standing up as the MUD’s main bet, but under a wave of criticism that he is receiving as a result of the governors who swore themselves in before the Constituent Assembly, all of whom are leaders in his AD party.

For the government, which only benefits from a divided opposition, this fracture is encouraged by spreading photos of governors swearing themselves in before the leader of the Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez, while Maduro secures his position with daily TV appearances.

According to Chavista leaders as well as the pro-government governor in the northern state of Miranda, Hector Rodriguez, Maduro also came out of the regional elections stronger as he managed to reinstate peace after violent protests took place between April and July this year, which left over 100 people dead.