“Why this new round of [verbal] violence we’ve been seeing? They’re trying to prove that if Chávez can’t be president for another term, then his substitute is going to be equally hard-line,” said Koeneke. “They’re trying to intimidate the opposition.”
It seems to be working. In the midst of Tuesday’s congressional meeting, Deputy Hernán Núñez said he was switching allegiance to the ruling PSUV party, then accused his one-time opposition allies of cronyism.
The latest administration offensive began a week ago, when Capriles traveled to Colombia to meet with Spanish socialist and former Prime Minister Felipe González. That same day, Maduro took to the airwaves.
“If they went there [Colombia] to sabotage the economy, bring in paramilitaries to assassinate in our country, and to look for money that comes from laundering and corruption, here we have a government that will work with an iron fist to stop any conspiracy or treason against the country,” Maduro said.
On Feb. 4, when the administration celebrated the 21st anniversary of Chávez’s failed attempt to overthrow the government of Carlos Andres Pérez, Maduro announced that the administration was adopting the red, blue and yellow baseball cap as its symbol. Capriles wore the tricolor cap throughout his presidential campaign, and it’s intrinsically associated with the opposition.
The next day in congress, the broadside against the First Justice deputies began.
Marcano said the accusations are ridiculous. He said the charge brought against him — that he had phantom employees on the payroll — had previously been tried and dismissed in court. Mardo faces allegations that he accepted millions in illegal campaign donations. He claims the donations were legitimate and passed along to his constituents.
“This is all part of a dirty tricks campaign,” Marcano said. “But we’re not going to flee the country and they are not going to muzzle us.”