By Ociel Alí López – Feb 9, 2024
The Venezuelan extreme-right politician María Corina Machado, who created the phrase “until the end,” has come up with a new mantra: “there can be no elections without me.” She has been one of the biggest proponents of voting abstention and foreign intervention. She also supposedly won the opposition primaries in October 2023, obtaining a little over 10% of the electoral roll.
This time she has taken the electoral route, although it seems that it is already too late. Due to her illegal activities, she was legally disqualified from running in the election and at end of January, the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) confirmed this disqualification.
As we approach the elections, with rumors going around that the National Electoral Council will choose a date relatively early, the opposition needs to implement a “Plan B,” which implies the substitution of Machado. This is something that has already been requested by several personalities of the moderate wing of the opposition, but this proposal does not yet have Washington’s approval.
In 2018, when almost all Western countries pressured the opposition to call for electoral boycott and opt for the path of insurrection and violence, the West inevitably recognized the parallel “government” of Juan Guaidó. That culminated in a ridiculous situation that should greatly embarass the leadership of the “developed countries.”
In the coming weeks we will see if the international right wing has learned from its mistake, or if it will commit the same mistake again. But what it is proposing so far—together with its allies in Venezuela—for the 2024 elections seems to be a similar to their strategy of that time. Machado’s mantra “until the end” is another version of the slogan “cessation of usurpation, transitional government, and free elections” used by the Guaidó experiment which tried, unsuccessfully, to overthrow the current government.
With the same method, the same result could be expected.
At least the way in which the administration of US President Joe Biden has responded to the decision of the TSJ to disqualify Machado, tightening the sanctions policy designed by the government of former President Donald Trump, and leaving the participation of the opposition in the electoral event in suspense, is reminiscient of the insurrectional strategy with known results.
Washington is also adding a new variable: it is now threatening the opening of war with Guyana.
The US opens the Guyana war theater
To add some fuel to the fire, the US government has not only responded with sanctions, but has also reopened the scenario of military conflict in Guyana.
US Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, and White House Senior Advisor on Latin America Juan González wielded the cudgel in Georgetown last weekend, promising military aircraft, radar, helicopters and drones to the government of Guyana to deal with Venezuela’s claims to the Essequibo. This looks very much like a typical US escalation of warmongering.
In April, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will rule on the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela over the Essequibo territory, although Caracas does not recognize the ICJ jurisdiction in the case.
This form of US pressure by involving Guyana in a conflict against Venezuela, however, may seem reckless and not even very credible, inasmuch as the destabilization of the southeastern Caribbean region would harm the intentions of the US and Europe to secure an important source of fuel supply.
Washington urges president of Colombia to intervene
Perhaps for this reason, the meeting between US officials with Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Monday, February 5, where Washington requested his mediation with Venezuela can be seen either as “the carrot” that is missing from the menu, or as a slip in the White House strategy, once again towards dialogue, in order to save the Barbados Agreement.
On Monday, in Bogota, Finer and González were more restrained than they had been in Georgetown. They asked for the intervention of the Colombian president as a “bridge” to “build a dialogue not only between the opposition and Chavismo, but frankly, between us and Venezuela,” according to the words of González.
González declared after his meeting with Petro, “we care about the process, not the candidate,” which has generated even greater suspicion.
Some political sectors, both of the opposition and the government, consider that it is evident from this approach to Petro that Washington may be willing to yield its position. Oscar Schémel, a political analyst close to the Venezuelan government, says that the US would be inclined to “sacrifice” Machado in order to continue developing oil plans with Venezuela.
The possibility of replacing María Corina Machado has been raised by several internal sectors of the opposition’s Unitary Platform, the organization that chose her as the standard bearer in its primaries. However, this coalition of parties does not have defined mechanisms or the necessary cohesion to designate another candidate. Nor does it have the “green light” from Washington, at least not yet.
Therefore, the opposition, if it cannot generate a radical turnaround, is destined to repeat the mistake of 2018, when it did not participate in the election and chanted fraud despite its non-attendance.
It is well known in Venezuela that there are weighty leaders in the opposition who aspire to be president, but that it is very difficult for them to propose a candidacy without the recognition of White House.
For now, between the visits of high-ranking US officials to Guyana and Colombia, it is not clear what the final US position will be regarding the recognition of the presidential election in Venezuela and whether Washinton will definitely consent to the selection of another opposition candidate.
On the other hand, the governmental sectors are pressing the accelerator and proposing to call the election earlier than expected, which would reduce the margin of maneuver for the opposition and put all the pressure on Machado’s internal and external supporters, who will have to decide whether to repeat the boycott scenario or to pass the baton to another opposition candidate.
Meanwhile, time marches forward and the presidential elections are approaching.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
Ociel Ali Lopez
Ociel Alí López is a political analyst, professor at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, and contributor to various Venezuelan, Latin American, and European outlets. His book Dale más Gasolina won the municipal literature award in social research.
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