Earlier this month, authorities ordered the detention of Oscar López Colina — a longtime Capriles’ collaborator — on allegations of money laundering and tax evasion.
Deputy Pedro Carreño of the ruling party showed pictures of López at a party hugging other men and wearing a wig and accused him of running a prostitution ring. He also accused Capriles, who is unmarried, of being a homosexual.
In July, legislators stripped Primero Justicia Congressman Richard Mardo of his parliamentary immunity on allegations of tax evasion.
And there’s more to come. On Wednesday, Maduro said he would present a report to the National Assembly with “concrete proof and proposals” that will leave those who support corruption “naked.”
Capriles is fighting back, saying Maduro is playing the bully to hide his own problems.
“The government’s fight against corruption is a lie,” Capriles said recently. “There’s no big fish being caught here, just skinny ones. It’s just office clerks who stamp papers.”
Earlier this month, Central Bank President Edmée Betancourt, in an interview with Ultimas Noticias newspaper, said $59 billion had been taken out of the Cadivi currency-control system in 2012 — more than double the usual amount — and that some of it had ended up in the hands of “phantom companies.”
She was replaced a few days after the interview.
Karen Hooper, director of analysis for Latin America at the Texas-based Stratfor group, said that Maduro is likely “flexing his muscles” after winning the election with a razor-thin margin.
“This is Maduro using old Chávez tactics — and that’s definitely his model,” she said.
Despite persistent rumors that Maduro is in a power struggle with Cabello over the fate of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, so far Cabello seems to be backing him, she said.
“The most important part here is that he doesn’t seem to be getting any open resistance form the PSUV camp,” she said.
There’s no doubt that corruption is a serious issue. Venezuela ranked 165 out of 174 nations in Transparency International’s most recent global ranking. That puts it right behind Haiti and one spot ahead of Iraq.
But whether Maduro will be given the right to fight corruption with a decree comes down to number 99.
Guevara, with Voluntad Popular, said he didn’t have much faith in legislators. At least four opposition members have jumped the fence, or talanquera as it’s known in Venezuela, during critical junctures before, he said.
Asked if he thought the opposition could stick together this time, Guevara didn’t hesitate.
“Unfortunately, no,” he said. “This is a moment of moral, economic and ethical crisis in our country.”