Venezuela’s main opposition parties, gathered in a group called the G4, announced this Tuesday (31) that they will participate in regional elections on November 21, when the country will choose new governors and mayors.
The decision breaks a boycott of elections by opponents that had been going on since 2017, when the regime of Nicolás Maduro, through a lawsuit with several irregularities, imposed a Constituent Assembly on the country, as opposed to the National Assembly.
In 2018, Maduro’s own re-election was considered illegitimate by the opposition, which did not participate in the dispute. Next, the leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, declared himself interim president, claiming that there was a power vacuum.
The decision to end the boycott was announced at a press conference in Caracas by representatives of what is now called the Unitarian Platform. The group will use the acronym of the MUD (Table of Democratic Unity), an anti-Chavista coalition that existed between 2009 and 2016, before being banned by the dictatorship. It was with this association that the opposition obtained a majority in the Assembly in 2015.
The new coalition has until this Wednesday (1) to submit the names of its candidates to the CNE (National Council of Elections). Guaidó, who had reservations about the opposition’s participation, considering that the conditions given “are not those of a free election”, asked the others to form a single slate to compete nationally.
“We announce to the national and international community our participation in the process of regional and municipal elections, after a long and difficult process of internal deliberation,” said Marianela Anzola, from the Un Nuevo Tiempo party. “We decided in this way because of the difficult situation that the country is going through, the state of urgency to find permanent solutions to our suffering and the purpose of strengthening unity.”
In addition to Un Nuevo Tiempo, the G4 includes Voluntad Popular, Primero Justicia and Ação Democrática. Also in the interview were Tomás Guanipa (PJ) and Henry Ramos Allup (AD).
Hours after the announcement, Maduro commented on the opposition’s decision, saying it is worthy of applause and represents the opening of a cycle of political stability. “I’m going to sit in my armchair with popcorn on November 21 to watch Guaidó vote,” he said.
At another earlier event, former VP congressman Freddy Guevara had also indicated the change in his group’s positioning. “We had asked for three things: free elections, an end to usurpation and a transitional government. It was our wish and we thought it was non-negotiable. dialoguing and transforming little by little,” he said.
Guevara recently left Helicoide, a prison for political prisoners, in a “gesture of approximation” to the dictatorship, in the context of negotiations that have been taking place since last month in Mexico.
He will also join these discussions next Friday (3), when a new round of talks between the opposition and the dictatorship takes place, in Mexico City, with mediation from Norway.
“We have many reasons to disbelieve the dialogue, we have been frustrated in the past. Now I think that there is no other option possible, since solutions through violence are totally ruled out.”
Voluntad Popular, like the rest of the G4, wanted Maduro to yield to the point of bringing forward the 2024 presidential elections, but Chavismo made it clear that it will not reach those terms at this time. As the opposition fights for the release of more political prisoners, clear rules for elections, empowerment of outlawed leaders and justice for human rights abuses, the dictatorship seeks to lift international sanctions against the country and its top officials.
In return, the regime released prisoners such as Guevara and stated that the new CNE, which includes two non-Chavista members, will act with freedom. He also assured that the elections will have international observers, something that was absent in previous elections.
Even with the severe economic crisis and the strong impacts of the coronavirus pandemic in Venezuela, in addition to the sanctions, the Maduro regime still has a firm militancy and 15% popularity, according to the Dataanalysis Institute.
Although more than 80% of the population wants changes, according to the same survey, the main opposition leaders, such as Guaidó (whose popularity is 25%), are wearing thin. More than 70% of Venezuelans believe that political parties act more in their own interest than for the well-being of the country.
On Monday (30), the NGO Human Rights Watch said it expected the negotiations in Venezuela to have a “very concrete focus on how to rebuild the country, have free elections and face the humanitarian emergency.”
According to the United Nations, there are already 6 million Venezuelans who have left the country in recent years. “The international community needs to press for the release of more political prisoners,” said José Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch.