Venezuela’s Opposition: Divided They (Still) Stand

One reason why the Venezuelan regime has been so effective in slowly—but surely—installing a full-fledged dictatorship is because of the internal divisions of the opposition. Unfortunately, those divisions are once again coming to the fore, even now that Nicolás Maduro’s fraudulent constituent assembly has revealed the regime’s ultimate goal beyond reasonable doubt.   

The opposition boycotted the legislative elections of 2005 in protest of the lack of independence of the Electoral National Council (CNE), which granted the government total control of the National Assembly for five years. It only decided to participate again in elections once it perceived it could beat Chavismo in the polls. However, as the popularity of the government began to wane—once the economy started to deteriorate—the regime became more ruthless in its approach: disqualifying candidates, jailing opponents, blackmailing voters, rigging the electoral registry, calling off scheduled elections, and engaging in massive voter fraud. Even when Chavismo accepted some electoral defeats, such as some gubernatorial elections or the legislative election of 2015, the government swiftly moved to strip those offices held by the opposition of meaningful power or resources.

In 2013, Maduro was elected president in a highly questionable election that undoubtedly involved CNE sanctioned voter fraud—enough to tip the election for Maduro. However, the opposition continued to insist on pursuing an electoral path forward. After winning an absolute majority in the legislative election of 2015, the opposition saw how the government-controlled Supreme Court systematically stripped powers from the National Assembly effectively rendering it useless. Even then, the opposition insisted in getting rid of Chavismo through democratic means. Last year, the opposition triggered the mechanism calling for a recall referendum on Maduro. Polls indicated that the vote would have gone in the opposition’s way with a comfortable margin. Unsurprisingly, the CNE arbitrarily suspended the process, leaving the opposition with no alternative other than civil resistance.

Sunday’s fraudulent vote to elect the members of Maduro’s constituent assembly exemplifies the glaring corruption in the CNE. According to its authorities, 8.1 million people voted in the election. Yet, Reuters reported that at 5:30 pm—just a couple of hours before the polls closed—only 3.7 million people had voted. Moreover, the software company that set up the country’s voting system denounced yesterday that the government had rigged the vote by “at least” one million votes. No wonder that the head of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, is one of the 13 senior officials of the Venezuelan regime recently sanctioned by the U.S. government.

Yesterday, Henry Ramos Allup, former president of the National Assembly and leader of the Democratic Action Party, made a perplexing statement: his party will stand for scheduled gubernatorial elections in December. Other figures of the Democratic Unity Roundtable, the umbrella opposition group, are also considering participating. Diosdado Cabello, perhaps the second most powerful government figure, appropriately mocked Ramos Allup for agreeing to participate in elections under a CNE that the opposition accuses of perpetuating massive fraud.

This division is a problem for the opposition. While some leaders insist in the immediate departure of the regime through civil resistance, others are willing to compromise in exchange for bogus regional elections. It is no wonder that, despite backing from the majority of Venezuelans, the opposition parties do not command their enthusiastic support.

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This definition certainly fits certain elements of the opposition.