Moving on from Guaido, Venezuela’s opposition sets sights on local elections
By Sabela Bello
Caracas, Nov 16 (EFE).- Members of Venezuela’s opposition once took their cues from hard-line former congressional leader Juan Guaido, but they are now forging their own path and looking to make gains at the ballot box in the Nov. 21 regional and local elections.
Guaido appeared to be riding high when he declared himself acting head of state in early 2019 and immediately won the backing of the United States and many of its allies.
But his influence has waned to the point that even though he initially called for a boycott of the upcoming elections (and still insists the focus should be on moving up the next presidential balloting, now scheduled for 2024) the vast majority of the opposition – including the sector led by Guaido – has opted to take part in them in a bid to reclaim political ground.
Guaido, who has been unable to weaken the military’s loyalty to leftist head of state Nicolas Maduro, continues to label his adversary as an usurper who won the 2018 presidential election through fraud.
But his failure to call elections 30 days after proclaiming his interim presidency, or at any time over the past two and a half years, has made his never-expiring claim to Venezuela’s highest office ring hollow.
One sign that the opposition has moved on from Guaido is the decision by Tomas Guanipa, Guaido’s “ambassador” to Colombia until August of this year, to run for mayor of the densely populated Libertador Bolivarian Municipality, part of the Metropolitan District of Caracas, as candidate of the so-called Unitary Platform.
Another is the move by fellow Unity candidate Jose Manuel Olivares – a former National Assembly lawmaker and once loyal follower of Guaido’s – to run for governor of La Guaira, a state located near Caracas.
Divisions within the opposition had already been evident, with two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles encouraging his supporters to participate in last December’s parliamentary elections (in defiance of Guaido’s call for a boycott) and also compete in the upcoming regional and local contests.
Capriles has long criticized Guaido and says his claims to be acting president ended with the failed April 30, 2019, uprising against Maduro that was headed by opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.
“This has been going nowhere for a while, going nowhere. Politics isn’t about making statements or giving press conferences … the interim presidency died on April 30, 2019,” Capriles said last month in backing a European Union mission to observe the Nov. 21 elections.
Those elections, Capriles said then, are an opportunity for Venezuela’s opposition to reinvent itself.
Venezuela will go to the polls on Sunday to elect 23 governors, 335 mayors, 253 state lawmakers, and 2,471 city councillors. EFE