Caracas (OrinocoTribune.com)—A debate with opposition pre-candidates running for the primaries has been held in the exclusive private university of Caracas, the Catholic University Andres Bello, in an auditorium filled with many sympathetic journalists and few ordinary voters. The debate, held this Wednesday, July 12, is not a very common occurrence within the Venezuelan opposition due to its constant infighting.
This occurrence, too, was not exempt of controversies, due to the unexplained absence of six out of the total of 14 pre-candidates that registered for the primaries. The absence of Henrique Capriles from the Justice First (PJ) party was noticeable, and so especially was the stir caused by María Corina Machado (Vente Venezuela) at the end of the debate, refusing to raise her hands alongside the rest of the candidates in front of the cameras.
Carlos Prosperi, from the traditional Democratic Action (AD) party; former governors César Pérez Vivas (Táchira state) and Andrés Velásquez (Bolívar state); trans activist and former congresswoman Tamara Adrián; former congresswoman Delsa Solórzano; former president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Andrés Caleca; Freddy Superlano from the Popular Will (VP) party; and María Corina Machado, from Vente Venezuela, were the pre-candidates participating in a debate the likes of which have not occurred since 2011.
The independent opposition candidate Gloria Pinho—who was properly enrolled in the primaries from the political movement Por Ti Venezuela—stated that she did not receive an invitation to the debate that was organized for “civil society” organizations, according to the National Primaries Commission (CNP).
— Reporte Ya (@ReporteYa) July 12, 2023
“I do not understand the reason why only eight candidates were summoned, if we are 14,” Pinho said during an interview this Tuesday. “When they say that only 8 accepted the invitation, that is completely false. It is enough that one was not summoned for them to come out and say that.”
The independent candidate further commented that she “would not attend the debate because I was not invited. It would be disrespectful to attend without an invitation,” she added, while requesting the cancellation of the debate, reasoning that “some people” try to make independent candidates invisible.
📢Gloria Pinho,candidata independiente a la primaria por el movimiento político “Por Ti Venezuela”, aseguró que no fue invitada al debate de los precandidatos. Afirmó que está pidiendo la nulidad del debate para que se fije una fecha y que se convoque a todos
— Servicio de Información Pública (@infopublicave) July 11, 2023
Henrique Capriles, who faced Chávez in 2012 and Maduro a year later, was invited but abstained from participating in Wednesday’s debate. Many analysts speculate that he and his party is not sympathetic with the elitist turn that the primaries are showing under María Corina Machado’s pressure.
According to local political analysts, the debate could have been happened without too much drama if not for María Corina Machado’s behavior, almost belligerently refusing to raise her hands along with the rest of the pre-candidates at the end of the ceremony.
Videos circulating profusely on social media platforms show Machado rejecting Freddy Superlano’s gentle attempt to hold her hands and raise them together, and her more evident refusal when César Pérez Vivas tried to do the same with more force.
For many, this first debate is new evidence of the profound cracks in the Venezuelan opposition, in addition to the lack of substantive ideas and proposals in a debate that maintains its most “important” proposal to be the closure of El Helicoide—the headquarters of Sebin, Venezuela’s intelligence service—which was an “idea” raised by Freddy Superlano during the debate.
Orinoco Tribune Special by staff