Now that it has become increasingly clear that elections in Venezuela are not a viable option to remove the increasingly autocratic regime, opposition leaders — long divided over how to best confront the Nicolás Maduro government — must unite and transform their organizations into a widespread civic resistance movement, experts say.
Analysts said this task has become an urgent necessity given the government’s decision to hold “a fraudulent presidential election,” on April 22, which is expected to grant Maduro a new six-year-term. The election is set to move forward despite warnings from neighboring countries as well as Canada and United States that the results would not be recognized.
The election is being viewed as a watershed moment in the emergence of a formal dictatorship, the analysts added.
Maduro’s march toward a more autocratic and repressive regime leaves the opposition with no other choice but “to reinvent itself, ... to stop being purely an alliance of election-geared political parties, to become a civic resistance movement,” said Oscar Valles, a political theory professor at the Metropolitan University of Caracas.
The change in strategy became necessary after the main parties controlling the opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) decided earlier this week that they would not participate in the election, falling in line after some hesitation with the overall international community’s opinion that the process was unconstitutionally launched and lacked enough guarantees ensuring the vote would be fair and transparent.
These developments mark a major change in the position of the opposition’s largest parties, which had been participating in a controversial negotiation process held with the regime in the Dominican Republic seeking, among other things, election conditions they could live with.
The dialogue placed them at odds with a fast-growing sector of the opposition convinced that the regime would never agree to hold fair elections that would most likely ensure its demise, given the growing discontent due to the collapse of the country’s economy.
Yet, some MUD leaders believed that Maduro could still be beaten at the polls, and were willing to bet that the huge discontent — if channeled correctly — could surpass the regime’s technical ability to commit fraud at the voting stations.
But the rising international and national rejection to the election process led the most important parties to realize the electorate road would fail, said Orlando Viera-Blanco, advisor to the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
“They would end up burying themselves” if they decided to continue insisting in the election when the Organization of American States, and the neighboring Latin American countries, Europe, Canada and the United States oppose it, Viera-Blanco said. He added that because those opposed to the government have lost faith in the election process, many voters would opt to abstain.
“The only way in which the actors of the MUD can now resurrect is to align themselves with what the international community is saying and with what the country is saying internally,” he said.
The fact that the MUD leadership was last in abandoning the electoral path does not surprise many, given that political parties in Venezuela are mostly election platforms.
“The opposition is composed, in part, by political actors that came from the old traditional parties that ultimately degenerated into mere machines for negotiating power quotas and for participating, almost blindly, in elections,” said Asdrúbal Aguiar, a Venezuelan writer and former politician. “They did not know how to do anything other than that.”
Democratic forces in Venezuela are not only fighting against a fractured institutional order but also the breakdown of the social fabric, which came about under a regime with alleged ties to drug trafficking and international terrorist organizations, Aguiar said.
“They are fighting against a criminal organization that kidnapped a government structure and that uses the state as a platform to conduct their international business,” Aguiar said. “To leave that behind by implementing an ordinary political route is impossible.”
Follow Antonio María Delgado on Twitter:@DelgadoAntonioM