Venezuela’s victors shouldn’t snatch defeat from jaws of victory

Opposition supporters celebrate the outcome of Venezuela’s Assembly elections.
Opposition supporters celebrate the outcome of Venezuela’s Assembly elections.

The vast Caracas slum known as Catia was a cradle of the late Hugo Chávez’s socialist revolution. Now it looks more like his regime’s coffin.

Few barrios have been as hit as hard by Venezuela’s economic and social collapse after 17 years of left-wing rule. By the world’s highest inflation rate. By South America’s worst murder rate. By an orgy of government corruption. And by the long and beleaguering lines people endure every day for scarce food and medicine — a perverted postcard from the Western Hemisphere’s most oil-rich nation.

Yet last month a local socialist congressional candidate, Jacqueline Faría, made the delusional remark that real revolutionaries find those epic food queues “enjoyable.”

So it’s little wonder that in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, most Catia residents scorned the leftist candidates backed by Chávez’s successor, President Nicolás Maduro, and voted instead for the more centrist opposition —as did folks in Chavista strongholds all over Venezuela.

It’s the key reason Maduro’s socialist party didn’t just lose control of the National Assembly — it got handed its radical rear end. The opposition looks to have won a supermajority of two-thirds of the Assembly’s seats.

“Everybody that is against what is happening in Venezuela today is opposition, regardless of being with the revolution or not,” says Pedro Vasquez, a South Florida Venezuelan expat and U.S. spokesman for Voluntad Popular, or Popular Will, one of the opposition alliance parties.

Marialbert Barrios, an opposition congressional winner in Catia, put it best: The socialists, once the champions of Venezuela’s poor when oil revenues were sky-high, were routed on Sunday because these days, as crude prices plunge, “They’ve been telling Venezuelans to eat fried rocks.”

To read the remainder of the column, click here.