María Corina Machado during an interview with EL PAÍS by Zoom, in Caracas, on July 6. Gaby Oraa
With a month to go before the primary elections of the Venezuelan opposition – agreed to choose a unified leadership that can be presented as an alternative to Chavismo in the presidential elections of 2024 – the right-wing María Corina Machado takes advantage in all opinion polls to lead them comfortably. The policy enjoys a percentage that swings around 40% of adhesion, with an upward trend, tripling its closest competitor, Henrique Capriles Radonski.
Like the rest of the candidates, Machado carries out his political messages without access to television or mass media, dealing with periodic acts of sabotage. The growth of his candidacy has been so dizzying that his numbers suggest that he would not even have to bother to finalize unitary agreements if Venezuela organized verifiable and guaranteed electoral consultations.
"Machado's growth is very significant," says political consultant Osvaldo Ramirez. "It has several reasons. A context where people feel detached from politics and the government party. People interpret that there can be a renewal of the opposition leadership. Here a bill is being passed to the traditional leadership of the Unitary Platform. María Corina has paid off for her effort to differentiate herself from them," he adds.
Eight out of 10 Venezuelans, according to Ramirez, want political change in the country. Although organized and present throughout the country, Chavismo is today a retracted movement. This year's economic stagnation has Nicolas Maduro at a particularly critical moment of acceptance.
The founder of the Vente Venezuela party is received in a clamorous way by the towns and cities she visits, despite it being well known that she is formally disqualified from participating in the presidential elections, as is Capriles, thanks to an administrative measure of the Chavista government. Without discussing the reasons or validity of the disqualification, Diosdado Cabello has stated several times that it will be impossible for Machado to register as a candidate under the measure, and maintains that she "deceives her followers."
The president of the National Electoral Council of the country, Elvis Amoroso, author of the disqualifications, has decided to give a late response to the request for technical collaboration made by the Primary Electoral Commission two months ago to the previous directive of the Electoral Power. The disqualification of Machado and Capriles seems an immovable criterion in Chavismo. Some opposition parties are interested in an agreement with the CNE. Amoroso's response suggests that Chavismo is rightly maneuvering to divide its adversaries again.
While Machado's leadership grows, the scenario on which it should be legitimized, which is the organization of the primary itself, is subject to a harsh political and institutional siege. There are many people who fear that the elections cannot be held. Every Wednesday, on his television program, Diosdado Cabello, head of the ruling PSUV, intrigues about the alleged shortcomings of the event and the internal disagreements of its organizers, predicting that these will not be organized. He has questioned the origin of the financing of the primaries and has requested to investigate José María Casal, president of the Electoral Commission.
Although the candidates remain determined, the deadlines are met and even the ballots have been cast, fear is spreading. Certain civilian volunteers in the process have resigned, making technical excuses. Some voting centers will have intricate destinations, and are exposed to the aggressions of Chavismo or its legal reprisals. María Carolina Uzcátegui, principal member of the Primary Electoral Commission, has not only resigned, but now carries out an insistent campaign in which she affirms that the logistical demands have not been met and that the consultation is no longer viable.
The Unitary Platform issued a statement in which it denounces "the plan that Nicolás Maduro, through his different spokespersons, has undertaken against the right of the Venezuelan people to choose their unitary candidate through a democratic election." Omar Barboza, of Un Nuevo Tiempo, executive secretary of the Platform, affirmed that there is a "perverse plan" orchestrated from Miraflores, to weaken wills and "capture spokespersons" who discredit the election.
It is very obvious that a fringe of the moderate opposition has a clear warning against Machado, and would be interested to see how he stops it. Again, rumors proliferate about alternative solutions and consensual formulas to agree on a candidate.
"The majority of the country welcomes the primaries, and understands their importance, but that does not mean that everyone will participate," says Felix Seijas, director of the firm Delphos. "The intention to vote is not that high, and that's normal, it happens frequently in these types of events." Seijas estimates that 8% of the electoral roll – the most committed to the cause of democratic change – will end up participating in the October 22 meeting. Osvaldo Ramírez's firm calculates it between 12 and 14%.
"The primaries fulfilled their function of reconnecting the parties with the citizens, that is fundamental, and María Corina Machado has coped very well with this circumstance," says Eglée González Lobato of the Central University of Venezuela. The analyst emphasizes that this "strategic mechanism" places Machado before a contradiction, since in the past he has renounced both political negotiations and electoral consultations. "I think she tends to be isolated in this context. His eventual victory conspires many people against him for his inflexibility."
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