Mr. Maduro in His Labyrinth

A line to buy basic goods in Caracas, Venezuela CreditJorge Silva/Reuters

Framed portraits of the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez were propped up at various stops of President Nicolás Maduro’s recent whirlwind trip abroad, as the man at the helm of the nation with the world’s largest oil reservesbegged for bailouts.

Posters of his predecessor also abounded when Mr. Maduro, a former bus driver, arrived home to a carnival-like welcome, as he drove the lead coach of a convoy that snaked through crowds of supporters.

Last week, in a speech before lawmakers, Mr. Maduro, whose approval rating has slipped to 22 percent as the Venezuelan economy teeters on the brink of collapse, again invoked his mentor in predicting a landslide victory in upcoming parliamentary elections. “I have no doubt that Chávez’s nation will deliver a great victory in the memory of Hugo Chávez in elections that are being held this year,” he said.

Since he was voted into office in April 2013 by a minuscule margin after Mr. Chávez’s death, Mr. Maduro has leaned heavily on the legacy of his predecessor, a populist who governed poorly but had magnetic charisma and shrewd political instincts. Woefully lacking on both fronts, Mr. Maduro has become increasingly erratic and despotic in a quest for political survival that seems more daunting by the day. Healthy oil export revenue allowed Mr. Chávez to build a robust network of patronage and create generous welfare programs during his 14 years in power. Those are becoming increasingly paltry on Mr. Maduro’s watch.

The tumbling price of oil, which accounts for 95 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings, has nearly destroyed an economy that has been managed dismally for years. Inflation rose to 64 percent last year. On Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund predicted that Venezuela’s economy would contract 7 percent in 2015, which could force Mr. Maduro’s government to default on its loans or significantly curtail the subsidized oil his country provides to allies in the Caribbean, including Cuba.

Mr. Maduro has been vague about the type of painful economic measures his government has been willing to embrace, yet he bafflingly has promised to expand social programs and raise salaries. Far from acknowledging responsibility for the crisis, he and his loyalists have blamed the revenue shortfalls on political opponents they accuse of enabling an international conspiracy.

They have jailed one of the most prominent figures in the opposition, Leopoldo López, since last February on trumped up charges of stoking violent protests a year ago. During Mr. López’s Kafkaesque trial, which is still in process, prosecutors have argued that he instigated bloodshed through subliminal messages.

Last month, the authorities in Venezuela charged another opposition leader, María Corina Machado, with plotting to assassinate Mr. Maduro — a ludicrous, unfounded allegation against another inspiring challenger.

The crackdown on the opposition, unobstructed by a weak and compromised press, appears to be an effort to divert attention from Venezuelans’ deteriorating quality of life. Security forces have been deployed to maintain order outside supermarkets, where people line up for hours to scrounge whatever is left on depleted shelves.

On a recent afternoon, a Venezuelan woman who had been waiting in line since 4 a.m. showed a television journalist from Al Jazeera English her forearm, where someone had written the number 413 with a black marker to establish her place in line. “Now we are like cattle,” the woman lamented. “This must end.”

Hours later, Mr. Maduro’s government responded with its standard effort to find a scapegoat for the national calamity. The head of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, in a televised address, called the journalist, Mónica Villamizar, an American spy.

All Alone: Maduro’s Witch-Hunt Diplomacy

Hard-Liner Rodríguez’s Appointment Signals More Bullish Rhetoric

Nicolás Maduro

Since taking office in 2013, Nicolás Maduro’s foreign policy has been characterized by confrontation and radical measures, surpassing even his predecessor, Hugo Chávez.

For Maduro, there’s always an enemy to attack, and his posturing reached new levels in 2014. In February, his administration cheerfully — and without evidence — labelled peaceful student protests a “coup orchestrated by the opposition with foreign backing.” He then proceeded to ignore calls from world leaders, governments, and international organizations, such as the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS), to seriously investigate the 40 dead, thousands jailed, and hundreds of Venezuelans tortured by law enforcement.

During the first three months of 2014 alone, Maduro blamed former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe for Venezuela’s own problems; expelled three US embassy employees for allegedly meddling in the country’s internal affairs; broke diplomatic and commercial relations with Panama; and accused Ricardo Martinelli’s “lackey” administration of promoting an invasion of Venezuela through the OAS. Problems with other countries like Spain followed, and go on to this day.

Maduro, of course, saved his most venomous political attacks for the United States, Venezuela’s largest consumer of its oil. The aggression towards the United States continued even despite the announcements in December from Barack Obama and Raúl Castro of thenormalization of relations between the United States and Cuba.

Immediately following this historic event, Maduro toned down his anti-imperialist hyperbole, but it didn’t last long. When the US Congress and President Obama signed a targeted sanctions law against Chavista functionaries responsible for human-rights violations, the confrontation reached new heights.

A reduction in financial largesse and diplomatic outreach also marked Venezuela’s 2014 international performance. Dwindling income resulting from the cheapest oil prices in decades put the country’s own budget at risk, and the Maduro administration was forced to cut back on international trips and its once generous aid to other nations.

Nevertheless, the Venezuelan president kept right on spending money during the few visits he did take abroad. In September, Maduro took 175 people — relatives, journalists, ministers, military members, bodyguards, and state officials — to the UN assembly in New York.” As of September 2014, Maduro  wasted over US$14 million in public funds on trips and travel allowances, while the Venezuelan people suffer a deep economic crisis,” denounced opposition Deputy Carlos Berrisbeitia.

That same month, the president appointed the prominent Chavista Rafael Ramírez as Foreign minister, after 10 years of leading state-run PDVSA and the oil ministry. This move was widely understood as the beginning of a new kind of diplomacy, less ideological and confrontational, and an attempt to calm creditors and investors in the oil sector. In fact, his four months in office — almost wholly devoted to representing Venezuela before OPEC — have been more moderate than his predecessor’s, Elías Jaua.

On October 16, 2014, after years of lobbying, Venezuela obtained a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council. Gaining 181 out of 193 votes from the general assembly, it was a great victory for the ruling PSUV party. This marked the fifth time Venezuela had gained access to the UN’s highest deliberative body, after a resounding failure in 2006 when it competed with Guatemala. In the end, neither country managed to secure a seat, however, after 47 rounds of voting.

November, on the other hand, represented a major setback for Chavista foreign policy. Maduro unsuccessfully pushed for a production cut at an OPEC meeting in order to ease the plummeting price of oil, which accounts for 96 percent of Venezuela’s exports.

The year ended with a sudden change: the recently appointed Ramírez was shipped to the United Nations as Venezuela’s representative on the Security Council, and Maduro ushered in Delcy Rodríguez Gómez to the Foreign Ministry.

Rodríguez, unlike the pragmatic technocrat Ramírez, signals a return to radicalization and ideological rhetoric. The woman now in charge of the country’s diplomatic relations is none other than the daughter of the legendary Marxist politician Jorge Rodríguez, founder of the Socialist League party, and sister of Libertador mayor Jorge Rodríguez, a high-rankingChavista official.

This new designation will undoubtedly isolate Maduro’s regime from the international community even further. If Maduro continues on this course — one that is, ironically, lesspragmatic than even Raúl Castro’s —  he is bound to reap disastrous political defeats like the one at the OAS on December 22. During the meeting, Maduro could not even manage to secure the support from Petrocaribe nations to sign a declaration against the US sanctions.

Maduro’s Prisoner-Swap Deal Ignites Fury over Arbitrary Detention

Growing Alliance Condemn Political Persecution of Leopoldo López

Representatives for Leopoldo López have said they will not accept anything less than his immediate release, arguing he has been imprisoned without due process.

President Nicolás Maduro has once again stirred controversy both inside and outside of Venezuela. On Monday, January 5, he offered to release jailed opposition leaderLeopoldo López if the US government would agree to a prisoner swap for Puerto Rican nationalist Óscar López Rivera.

Freddy Guevara, national coordinator for opposition party Popular Will, argues that in doing so Maduro has unwittingly confirmed López’s status as a political prisoner. The Venezuelan government formally charged the 43-year-old former mayor in February 2014 with “incitement of crime, criminal association, arson of a public building in the second degree, and damage to public property.”

“It is clear that Nicolás Maduro kidnapped Leopoldo López.”

Popular Will leaders further argue that Maduro’s actions reinforce the ruling from the UNWorking Group on Arbitrary Detentions and the European Parliament that the prominent opposition leader has been jailed arbitrarily and should be freed immediately.

Human-rights NGOs, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), have also voiced their concerns over López’s incarceration. HRW chief José Miguel Vivancos has stressed that “the swap is not an option; the only way out is his immediate release.”

Ever since the UN Working Group ruled in October 2014 that López should be freed, the dissident politician has refused to appear before a Caracas court, contesting its legitimacy and arguing that it must comply with the international body’s ruling.

López’s attorneys have formally filed a request for his release with the Appeals Court, but it has yet to respond. Following a series of postponements, the most recent on Monday, January 5, the next hearing in his case has been scheduled for January 13.

On Sunday, before leaving for an international lobbying tour of Russia, China, and OPEC nations, President Maduro revealed part of a conversation held with US Vice President Joe Biden on January 1 in Brazil, during President Dilma Rousseff’s inauguration ceremony.

Maduro said Biden requested López’s release, to which he replied: “The only way I’d use my presidential powers to free López is if we exchange him, man for man, for the Puerto Rican nationalist Óscar López Rivera, put him on a plane, and send him to the United States.”

The Venezuelan president referred to López as the “monster of Ramo Verde,” a reference to the military prison where the opposition leader is held in almost total isolation. In the past, Maduro has also referred to López as a “murderer” for allegedly spurring the protests on February 12, 2014, that left three students dead. López, however, has not been charged with homicide, while two police officers are currently under investigation in connection with the killings.

The 12-F protest was the climax of over three months of student demonstrations that left 42 people dead, most at the hands of armed Chavista paramilitary groups. Over 100 people still remain in police custody as a result of the protests, and 2,000 others face criminal charges.

According to reports from several human-rights NGOs, the Venezuelan government arbitrarily arrested over 3,000 protestors, and violated human rights in 157 instances. This led to the approval of targeted sanctions by the United States directed against Venezuelan officials accused of human-rights violations.

Following Maduro’s recent statements, the opposition alliance group, the Democratic Unity Rountable and López’s own Popular Will party, have condemned the proposed prisoner exchange. They claim that Maduro’s comments not only acknowledge López is a political prisoner but also reveal his desire to exile one of the country’s most popular politicians. Opinion polls demonstrate López holds double the approval rating of Maduro, whose popularity is currently lower than any president since 1999, when Hugo Chávez launched the Bolivarian Revolution.

Repercussions Within and Abroad

“Leopoldo López’s swap has become international news,” said Leopoldo Castillo, one of Venezuela’s most influential journalists, to his 1.3 million Twitter followers. “If Maduro thought he was being funny, it came out as an insult.”

“If Maduro thought he was being funny, it came out as an insult.”

Lilian Tintori, López’s wife and spokesman, has rejected the possibility of López leaving Venezuela.

“Maduro, this isn’t about a swap deal; this is about justice,” Tintori responded.

Freddy Guevara of Popular Will adds that he believes this ordeal reveals López has been “kidnapped” and “Maduro is a kidnapper.… If anyone had any doubts that Leopoldo was a political prisoner … it became clear for everyone yesterday, when Maduro proposed exchanging him for another political prisoner.”

However, López’s defense attorney, Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, left the door open to consider the unlikely deal. “If the United States were to accept the offer, we’d be willing to evaluate it,” said Gutiérrez. He added that from a legal standpoint, however, the arrangement would be “openly unconstitutional.”

Despite the attorney’s response, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki put the speculation to rest, responding within 24 hours by rejecting any possibility of such an arrangement.

“There’s no comparison in our view between these cases,” she stated. “It is unfortunate that someone – Leopoldo Lopez, who should be presumed innocent – is being sentenced on national television by Venezuela’s president without the conclusion of a trial.”

Renowned Venezuelan legal scholars like Alberto Arteaga have also expressed theiramazement at Maduro’s proposal: “It’s unprecedented in Venezuela … The prisoner swap hypothesis is not contemplated in the legal system, and he [Maduro] is only allowed to grant a presidential pardon. What we’re seeing is that López’s persecution really is politically motivated and Maduro isn’t embarrassed to show it.”

Miranda governor and former presidential contender Henrique Capriles had harsher words for the president, saying Maduro “should turn on his brain” before speaking. “What is this? Asking for an exchange for someone who has nothing to do with us? We want justice for Leopoldo López and the rest of our fellow activists in jail.”

As both sides exchange political blows, López remains in Ramo Verde prison, and according to Juan Francisco Alonso of El Universal — who has closely followed López’s legal proceedings his situation is unlikely to change in 2015.

“[There is] clearly no precedent” for Maduro’s offer, said Alonso on local news radio. He also suggests the trial has been plagued by misconduct, unfairly favoring the prosecution, as the court has limited the defense’s ability to present counter evidence during pretrial hearings.

The prosecution is asking for a 16-year sentence against López, whose health conditions in prison have deteriorated since February 2014. The Popular Will leader, as well as the deposed mayors Enzo Scarano and Daniel Ceballos, have denounced abuses and poor living conditions inside the military jail.

Maduro Touts Special Economic Zones to Grease Wheels with China #VenezuelaEnTerapiaIntensiva

Venezuelan Regime Seeks Construction Companies for Public Housing

On Sunday September 21, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced the creation of two “Special Economic Zones” (ZEEs) through the signing of four agreements with Chinese companies, as part of the Chinese-Venezuelan Fund.

“I want to inform the Chinese businessmen of the creation of ZEEs in two cities, Puerto Cabello and Anzoátegui, with special conditions for foreign investment — initially from China, and later open to anyone wanting to invest,” Maduro said.

Maduro did not elaborate on what those special conditions will be, but he did say a total of US$2 billion will be invested.

Pedro Benitez, a member of the Democratic Action Party and the Public Policy Unit of Analysis at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) told the PanAm Post that these agreements are nothing new: “Previous announcements of this type have been made, but official information regarding the details of these commercial exchanges is not available.”

According to Benitez, the arrangement is just another means of exchanging petroleum for cash that will allow Venezuela to honor its economic obligations, as opposed to Maduro’sclaim that, “We are going to be exporters of construction materials.”

Construction the Driving Force behind the Special Economic Zones

The majority of Chinese companies that will invest in the Venezuelan ZEEs are in the construction sector, which Maduro says will reinforce his public-housing program, known as the “Great Venezuela Housing Mission” (GVMM). The stated goal of the initiative is to provide housing for 25 million Venezuelans through the construction of 6 million houses by 2019.

Benitez, however, dismisses the notion that the program will solve Venezuela’s housing problem: “Public-housing policy has existed since 2011, but it has not solved any problem. The urban slums in major cities are still there, despite government announcements and claims of housing construction.”

The first two agreements of the ZEE initiative were made with Sany Heavy Industry, a Chinese company that will manufacture heavy machinery and prefabricated housing material for both domestic and foreign markets. Sany Heavy will build eight industrial construction plants, each with six production lines. Ricardo Molina, minister of public works and housing, said the company will begin with the construction of 200,000 houses.

The third and fourth agreements were signed with Citi Construction and JAC Motors, which will manufacture windows, doors, and construction vehicles respectively.

As part of the program, Maduro will permit the importation of necessary construction materials.

Window of Opportunity or Dead End?

“The export window must be opened,” Maduro said during the press conference for the deal. In addition to the Venezuelan market, the goods produced are expected to be exported toMercosur, PetroCaribe, and Bolivarian Alliance nations.

To strengthen Venezuela’s manufacturing base, Maduro proclaimed that “at least 20 percent of production must be exported.”

Again, Benitez sees the goal as dubious, since the agreements lack detail: “The Chinese-Venezuelan Fund is messy; there is no information regarding the price of oil Venezuela sells China, who pays transportation costs, nor how and when payment will be made. These new agreements signed as part of the fund simply resolve the immediate need for cash.”

As Benitez puts it, “Venezuela has an open line of credit with China.” He thinks the Maduro government will maintain this course as long as China values cheap oil. What Benitez does not know is how long the agreement will last, and what Venezuela will do without it.

The Chinese-Venezuela Fund began in2007. The following year, Hugo Chávez signed an energy-cooperation deal with China with thegoal of increasing Venezuela’s oil exports to China from 96,000 to 1 million barrels per day by 2012, in exchange for $4 billion in Chinese credit.

Benitez says that “In the long run,” though, “China benefits from these agreements, and Venezuela loses. Chinese businesses enters the country without any problem, but we never get to see the finished projects that the government periodically announces.”

Venezuelan Exiles: Dictator Maduro, Stay Away from Panama!

Peaceful Protesters Reject Possible Attendance at Varela’s Inauguration

Yesterday morning, a group of Venezuelan residents in Panama City protested outside the residence of the new president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela. The demonstrators expressed their opposition to the possible presence of the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, at Varela’s presidential inauguration. They also asked Varela to take a firm stance against ongoing human rights violations inflicted by the Maduro regime in the oil-exporting country.

Venezuelans displayed signs with messages against President Nicolás Maduro and the violence, scarcity of basic goods, and imprisonment of student demonstrators in their country

The Venezuelan demonstrators acted in preemptive manner, since the Venezuelan president has yet to confirm whether he will attend the inauguration ceremony. The presidents of other countries, such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Spain, have given such notice, and unofficial sources suggest that Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza will travel in Maduro’s place.

Still, Andreína Chacín, a representative in Panama for the Venezuelan opposition party Popular Will, says the protests were carried out in advance precisely to let President Maduro know how the Venezuelan community there feels about the possibility of him visiting the country.

“He is a dictator. He is suppressing the democrats who took to the streets to protest against him, which is a legitimate right protected by our constitution,” said Chacín. She was referring to the deaths of 42 people and the arrests of more than 3,000 during the wave of protests that began in Venezuela on February 4.

Chacín also recalled that following the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Panama last March, Maduro was disrespectful to the Central American country.

“We do not support his visit. He disrespected Panamanians, and we want the international community to break its complicit silence. To the extent that they don’t make use of the international mechanisms to enforce respect for human rights, the death toll will keep rising. Many leaders that have not spoken out will have to live with the fact that they did nothing to stop the killings,” Chacín said.

After the delegation of the Central American country ceded their turn to speak to opposition leader María Corina Machado at a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) held in March, Nicolás Maduro called Panama’s ex president Ricardo Martinelli a “lackey.”

The Popular Will representative asked Panama’s new president to continue the struggle for human rights and democracy in Venezuela, as allowed by international law.

Demonstrators, who remained protesting until noon, told the PanAm Post that both Varela and his wife, Lorena Varela Castle, waved their hands in a friendly gesture towards them while they were leaving their home.

“Here I Can Express my Opinion and not Die in the Process”

Many of the banners held by demonstrators protesting in Panama highlighted that in Venezuela they simply “cannot protest,” since between February and June, 3,000 peaceful demonstrators have been arrested there.

 Enlace permanente de imagen incrustada

Norema Asilah, a Venezuelan vacationing in Panama, said she was happy to be able to protest in the way that she is not able to in her home country.

“I came to visit my daughter, and I’m happy to be here to express the sadness and despair we Venezuelans feel. Our children have to look for a better future in other countries. In Venezuela, the government keeps wasting money while the misery of the people grows in front of our eyes,” she said.

Another protester, Verónica Velásquez, arrived in Panama a month ago with the intention of settling in the country.

“I lived through the protest period in Venezuela and did not dare to go out, because it meant putting a bullet to my chest. Here at least we can have our own small space for telling the world what we are going through back home,” she said.

Panamanian Rey Feurtado participated in the demonstation against Maduro's repression in Venezuela

Panamanians also approached the protest to show their support and solidarity.

“Given what is happening in our brother country, we cannot pretend to be deaf and blind. Students are being repressed in Venezuela.… Panama went through a dictatorship in the past, and many of our people had to flee to other countries. We must be unified,” said Rey Furtado, a Panamanian citizen who participated in the protest.

A group of Colombians also attended the demonstration in the company of family and Venezuelan friends.

“Human rights are violated all the time in Venezuela. That’s not what Simón Bolívar would have wanted for his country,” said Luis Fernando Cardona, who proudly wore the Colombian football team jersey, but held a banner against repression in Venezuela.

His Venezuelan friend, Jenny Ramirez, added: “How could they not show solidarity if they are our brother country? Maduro’s visit would be disrespectful. It is a government that indoctrinates our children and represses our youth.”

Citizens Affected by the Breakdown of Diplomatic Relationships

Chacín said that although Maduro and Varela have mentioned re-establishing diplomatic relations, in practice there are still unresolved issues between the two countries. Venezuelan nationals cannot solve their banking and consular problems due to the inactivity of diplomatic offices, along with Venezuela’s rejection of foreign currency transactions with Panamanian intermediaries.

Because the Chavista regime has established severe foreign-exchange controls, state officials can decide what type of operations are authorized for currency trading. Venezuelans who travel to Panama, for example, cannot exchange their currency into US dollars freely. But the situation is even more complicated for Venezuelans who reside in Panama and who study or receive their old age pension, as they need to convert their bolivars into dollars to cover their most basic living expenses.

“As Venezuelans in Panama, we are still not able to freely access our own money. It is important to note that this is not about the government giving any money to Venezuelans, it is about the inability to change our own money into dollars,” said Chacín. “With the high inflation rates prevalent in Venezuela, it is too expensive to buy dollars on foreign-exchange black market that has gown so large in [her] country.”

Over 60,000 Venezuelans live in Panama, and the figure is expected to increase due to theemigration wave currently sweeping Venezuela.

Chacín also noted that just like payments for remittances and pensions are frozen, traders in the Colón Free Zone in Panama still haven’t been payed either. “Venezuelan companies paid what they owed in bolivars, but the government does not pay the dollar equivalent here in Panama.”

Whole families attended the event and were greeted by president Juan Carlos Varela from his car

Eye For An Eye: Washington Kicks Out Venezuelan Diplomats After Maduro Booted Americans

 

 
maduro usa.jpg

A helmet wearing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro cheers motorcyclists during a rally in support of his government in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014. Since Feb. 12, opponents of President Nicolas Maduro have been staging countrywide protests that the government says have resulted in scores of deaths and more than more than a hundred injured. The demonstrators blame Maduro’s administration for the country’s high crime rate and economic troubles. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)(AP2014)

  The State Department said Tuesday it has expelled three Venezuelan diplomats in response to last week’s expulsion of three U.S. consular officials from Caracas.

Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Venezuelan envoys First Secretary Ignacio Luis Cajal Avalos, First Secretary Victor Manuel Pisani Azpurua, and Second Secretary Marcos José García Figueredo, have 48 hours to leave the U.S.

Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro expelled three U.S. diplomats from Caracas on Feb. 17, saying they were supporting opposition plots to overthrow him.

Psaki cited U.S. concerns about Venezuela’s record of human rights and support for democracy, but said Washington remains open to a diplomatic relationship with Maduro.

“Venezuela also needs to show seriousness for us to be able to move forward,” Psaki said. “And recent actions, including expelling three of our diplomats, continue to make that difficult.”

The two countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010, though they have maintained embassies.

Since Feb. 12, Venezuelan opponents of Maduro have been staging countrywide protests that the government says have left at least 15 people dead and wounded about 150. Authorities have detained 579 people, of whom 45, including nine police officers and members of the National Guard, remain in custody.

Though violent protests have died down, Venezuela remains tense. Opposition protesters erected barricades to block traffic on major streets in Caracas and elsewhere Monday but there were no major clashes.

Venezuelan Opposition Leader Vows To Keep Fighting Maduro From Jail

 

CARACAS, VENEZUELA   Moments before his dramatic arrest, opposition leader Leopoldo López told a sea of white-shirted supporters that he doesn’t fear years behind bars if that’s what it takes to open eyes to the damage done to Venezuela by 15 years of socialist rule.

“If my jailing serves to awaken a people, serves to awaken Venezuela … then it will be well worth the infamous imprisonment imposed upon me directly, with cowardice” by President Nicolás Maduro, a defiant López shouted through a megaphone Tuesday from atop a statue of 19th century Cuban independence hero José Martí in a Caracas plaza.

“In the innocent eyes of my children, who still don’t know what really is happening in this country, I’ve found the strength I need to fight for a Venezuela that will be much better for them and for all the children.”

– Leopoldo Lopez

He then pushed his way through the crowd, waving a flower over his head, to a police line a few feet away and turned himself in to face charges blaming him for violence between opposition activists and pro-government forces last week. He was driven away in an armored vehicle, and a judge later ordered him held in jail before a court appearance Wednesday.

Friends and allies say the steely resolve exhibited at the rally is often seen in the man who competes in triathlons, is addicted to extreme sports and once escaped from the clutches of gun-firing bandits while stumping for votes in a pro-government slum. The trait has been evident in recent months as he emerged as head of an increasingly powerful opposition faction that is pushing for a stronger, but non-violent confrontation with the government.

López, 42, surrendered to authorities after a weeklong manhunt to face charges including terrorism and murder stemming from the unrest that erupted after a big anti-government protest he led Feb. 12. Most demonstrators had gone home before the deadly clashes began.

After a week marked by nightly clashes between police and students, dozens of detentions and the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats, the threat of more violence hung over López’s public surrender in front of thousands of supporters at the same time government backers held a rival march organized by Maduro to denounce a “fascist” conspiracy to topple him.

But López’s repeated appeals for restraint and a strong police presence calmed emotions and there were no reports of major violence in Caracas.

An outburst did occur in Valencia, the country’s third largest city where 11 people were reported injured as opposition demonstrators clashed with National Guard troops. Enzo Scrano, a mayor of one Valencia district and an opposition member, said at least three were shot by unknown gunmen on motorcycles.

While opposition leaders have complained for years about a government crackdown on dissent, foreign governments have shown scant interest in pressing Maduro since he was elected 10 months ago to succeed the late Hugo Chávez. Arresting López could change that, bringing international pressure comparable to the rebuke Russian President Vladimir Putin suffered after jailing activist punk rockers Pussy Riot, said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue.

Human rights group have condemned the charges against Lopez as being based on political conspiracy theories and not criminal evidence, while Secretary of State John Kerry warned that arresting the opposition firebrand would have a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression.

On Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney rejected as “baseless” Maduro’s claim that U.S. Embassy officials were infiltrating universities to stir unrest, saying it was another attempt by Venezuela’s government “to distract from its own actions by blaming the U.S.”

The protests have come against the backdrop of increasing hardships in Venezuela, including rampant violent crime, spiraling 56 percent inflation, frequent failures of the electric grid and shortages of many basic goods — all for which the opposition blames the government.

Reacting to the arrest order, some Venezuelans say becoming a cause celebre was López’s plan all along, with the charismatic, Harvard-educated leader seeking to catapult past the opposition’s two-time losing presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, and lead an angry charge against the government.

López draws inspiration from what he claims is a family history of dissent. He says he’s a distant relative of independence hero Simon Bolivar, whose reputation as a renegade earned him as much mistrust as acclaim in his day but was an idol of Chávez, Maduro’s mentor. Lopez’s great-grandfather was jailed for 14 years for opposing the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gomez, and other family members were forced into exile.

“I come from a family in which persecution in one form or another has been part of our history,” he told the Associated Press in an interview last March. “I’m ready to let history say that I stayed loyal to that conviction of fighting for the Venezuela that I believe in.”

Critics say he’s putting personal ambitions and the lives of others ahead of opposition unity after years of hard-fought electoral gains.

His fiery rhetoric and elite background — he studied economics in the U.S. on a swimming scholarship and speaks fluent English — make him an improbable figure to build bridges with the poor Venezuelans who elected Maduro and who, while increasingly dissatisfied with his handling of the economy, jealously guard their social gains under Chávez.

“The middle-class (protesters) on the street don’t represent the masses,” said Carlos Romero, a political scientist at Central University of Venezuela.

López debuted in politics at age 29, when he was elected mayor of the Chacao district in Caracas, a wealthy opposition stronghold that’s the epicenter of the past week’s violent clashes between students and police.

When he left office in 2008 with sky-high popularity ratings, he set his sight on higher office, but the government banned him from running on charges of influence peddling that he says were trumped up. He successfully challenged that order before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, but Venezuela’s government has not reinstated his political rights.

After switching parties several times, López backed Capriles’ first presidential run in 2012 and again in the snap election last year to pick Chávez’s successor.

But after opposition candidates fared worse than expected in December’s mayoral elections, López and his Popular Will party have taken the lead of a splinter faction that accuses Capriles of meek leadership. Its slogan: “The Exit,” for the hashtag used on Twitter that has allowed it to mobilize tens of thousands of protesters nationwide in the face of scant coverage by Venezuela’s increasingly state-dominated media.

Having shaken Maduro’s government like never before, López now faces his biggest test yet. If convicted, he could face years in jail.

Giving up his freedom is a price he said he’s willing to pay so his two young children will grow up in a more democratic Venezuela.

“In the innocent eyes of my children, who still don’t know what really is happening in this country, I’ve found the strength I need to fight for a Venezuela that will be much better for them and for all the children,” López said in a video recorded on the eve of his arrest and posted online Tuesday night.

Se Cae La Careta

mascaras

Lo que parecía ser auspicioso, la supuesta “disposición al diálogo” del gobierno con esa otra mitad del país que no le sigue ni le ríe las gracias, no fue más, los hechos lo confirman, que una charada dirigida a tratar de ganarle a Maduro algo de legitimidad de desempeño. Sólo buscaba mejorar un poco la percepción que los opositores tienen de él. Nada más. Maduro había jugado cartas duras, sentando las bases para lo que vendrá: la más grave crisis económica de los últimos tiempos, y necesitaba mostrarse, que no “demostrarse”, como un hombre abierto y amplio que había entendido que si quería reconocimiento y un cierto margen de gobernabilidad debía dar el primer paso y tender, más allá de lo simbólico, la mano a quienes se le oponen.

Muchas veces uno se sitúa en los zapatos de quienes hoy nos gobiernan y hace un esfuerzo por comprender cuál es el sentido, y cuáles son los objetivos finales, de lo que hacen. La mejor manera de comprender al adversario es identificarse con él, pues eso te permite ver si sus actos son altruistas o generosos (es decir, si implican algún sacrificio de las propias aspiraciones en pro del bien común) o si por el contrario no esconden más que intenciones sesgadas y egoístas. En ningún caso he hallado, por mucha ingenuidad o buena fe que me empeñe en usar a estos efectos, motivación alguna que al final del día conduzca a logros que le hagan bien al país en general. Sólo veo un irreductible ánimo de consolidación hegemónica, a trancas y barrancas, y las más de las veces contra lo que la Constitución Bolivariana dispone, de una única visión en detrimento de los anhelos y de las visiones de “los otros”, los mismos que, declaraciones teatreras aparte, son vistos siempre como “enemigos” o sencillamente no son valorados como ciudadanos sino como simples cosas, como meras herramientas para el logro de fines puntuales contra las que “todo vale”.

Los hechos que corroboran mis conclusiones anteriores son los siguientes: En primer lugar, el único preso político que obtuvo su libertad este diciembre que pasó fue Milton Revilla. Todos los demás se quedaron esperando por un gesto valiente de buena voluntad desde el poder que sigue sin aparecer.

La mejor demostración de que “Maduro no es Chávez” la dio Miraflores, pues Maduro no tuvo el coraje de plantarle cara a sus radicales, como se lo exigía más de la mitad de la nación. Chávez sí lo hizo en 2007 al decretar en ese momento una amnistía, y antes de eso hasta se había atrevido a sugerir para algunos presos políticos emblemáticos, como el General Francisco Usón, un indulto. Chávez, para bien o para mal, no se sometía más que a sí mismo, pero Maduro demostró y demuestra debilidad, no ante quienes le somos opuestos, que tenemos muy claro que este gobierno tiene más de “colectivo” que de personalista, sino ante sus propios adláteres. No se engañen, amigos oficialistas, la negativa de Maduro a la amnistía, a los indultos o al cese por cualquier vía legal y constitucional de la persecución por motivos políticos no implica “guáramo”, como mentamos al coraje acá en Venezuela, sino todo lo contrario. Implica sumisión a intereses ajenos, divorciados de la realidad de la nación, y un muy escaso margen de maniobra independiente, lo cual, en una persona que está ejerciendo la presidencia con la ventaja de no estar sujeto al control institucional de los demás Poderes Públicos, es muy grave.

Maduro, en segundo lugar, aún siendo civil sigue sometido a los militares, con todo lo que ello implica. No asume que el lenguaje y los modos castrenses son distintos de los de la civilidad. Los primeros se manejan desde la verticalidad y la subordinación, los segundos desde la horizontalidad y el diálogo. Esto no sólo lo demuestran sus melosos discursos ante la FAN, en los que a falta de caudal personal no hace más que recurrir a la memoria del occiso para generar empatía, sino también su reciente prodigalidad con el sector armado, al que no duda en acomodarles las quincenas y los beneficios para adecuarlos, esos sí, a la dura realidad económica que padecemos, mientras que a otros factores, incluso en el mismo sector público, les recorta los ingresos y les limita los recursos. Sumémosle a esto que además recientemente y contra lo que pauta el Art. 330 de la bolivariana, reincorporó al servicio activo, y ascendió, a personajes, que él lo sabe, se mueven en uniforme mucho mejor que él.  Bobo no es, sabe que las armas son un fiel de la balanza, que sumado al descontento general que ya se va acumulando, puede marcar la diferencia entre que permanezca o no en el poder a mediano plazo. No es que los militares, como todos los ciudadanos, no merezcan mejores condiciones de vida, lo que genera suspicacia es que el poder se afane tanto en ellos, dejando de lado a todos los demás ciudadanos, funcionarios públicos inclusive, cuando es un hecho que la crisis que sufrimos nos afecta a todos, sin distinciones.

Por último, para ponerle la guinda al helado, la Ministra de Información trae de nuevo a la vida el oscuro y nada tolerante empeño de sacar “listas” de ciudadanos, en este caso de dirigentes opositores, para mostrarle al país que algunos de ellos, como si eso fuese delito o pecado, salieron de país en el pasado asueto navideño. Me imagino que más de uno en el oficialismo debe andar chorreado, esperando que no se hagan públicas sus fotos navideñas en lujosos y foráneos destinos. Busca, por supuesto, estigmatizar, haciendo lo que en su momento hicieron Tascón y otros: Mostrando como negativo o hasta criminal lo que la Constitución dice, porque lo dice, que es nuestro derecho. Lo hace violando no sólo los artículos 21, 50 y 61 de nuestra Carta Magna, como bien lo ha destacado Rocío San Miguel, sino usurpando funciones de otros poderes, puesto que la obtención de los datos migratorios de los ciudadanos en Venezuela, por parte de los cuerpos de seguridad (y el MINCI no es uno de ellos) está sujeta a una autorización judicial, previa la existencia, por cierto, de una investigación en la que puedan hacerse este tipo de solicitudes ¿De dónde entonces obtuvo la Ministra esos datos? ¿Con permiso de quién, siendo que se trata de información privada y confidencial, los divulga? Lo más grave es que aunque ahora esté tratando de recoger las piedras que lanzó, no sólo ha ido contra la supuesta “disposición al diálogo” que tanto cacarea el gobierno, sino además que de “retruque”, como decimos acá, ha estigmatizado como “apátridas” a todo el que haya osado pasar las fiestas fuera del país, prominentes oficialistas incluidos. Olvidó, convenientemente, que el mismo Maduro pasó varios días de estas fiestas en Cuba, y que muchos boliburgueses se cuentan entre esos más de 200.000 pasajeros que sólo por Maiquetía salieron en estos días al “imperio” o a otros destinos mucho más costosos, sin rendirle cuentas a nadie

Malo eso de olvidar que, como diría Esopo: “Las palabras que no van seguidas de hechos, no valen nada”.

¿Cuál Es El Avión Presidencial Que Maduro Dice Haber Entregado A Conviasa? ¿El Viejo Boeing O El Airbus? ¿Compró Ya El Nuevo Embraer De $50 Millones?

Presidente-Maduro-en-uno-de-los-nuevos-aviones-Embraer-E190

El diario El País de Madrid, quizás uno de los que más está pendiente de la realidad venezolana al tener dos grandes periodistas como sus corresponsales (Alfredo Meza y  Ewald Scharfenberg) , no pierde ocasión para ir desvelando día tras día las calamidades por un lado y por el otro hasta las excentricidades de un régimen que ya va para quince años en el poder. Equivale este lapso a lo que antes, en la era democrática 1958-1998, serían tres gobiernos libremente elegidos por los ciudadanos de Venezuela sin el abuso de un poder abusivo y sin escrúpulos de ningún tipo.

El énfasis en el reporte de hoy está en el anuncio del presidente Maduro ofreciendo casi como una dádiva de su bolsillo (igualmente hacía Chávez desde el poder total que disfrutó desde 1999 al 2013) uno de los aviones presidenciales que ha disfrutado pero del que tienen serias dudas sobre la calidad de su mantenimiento. Ha llegado a pensar que los franceses de la fábrica Airbus le podían colocar desde micrófonos hasta bombas a bordo y provocar fallas irreparables.

Se nos olvida que en uno de sus periplos a China se detuvo en París para asistir a una feria de aviones y se entusiasmó con un nuevo modelo de la misma fábrica. Sin embargo, como el intermediario con todos los negocios con Francia todos estos años resultó ser Temir Porras (uno de sus colaboradores de confianza y quien fuera su viceministro por varios años a pesar de las tres peticiones del presidente Chávez de que lo botara) que al final parece haberlo traicionado y por ello fue despedido de los tres cargos que ostentaba apenas comenzó Maduro en la presidencia, el interés de Nicolás pasó a un Embraer de Brasil acondicionado en su configuración interna como el Ilyushin IL-96  de Cubana de Aviación que  le gusta a él tanto como le gustaba a Chávez.

No sabemos si lo que recibirá Conviasa será ese Airbus o el viejo Boeing bautizado por el muerto líder como “El Camastrón”.

El misterioso destino del avión de Chávez

Maduro asegura que lo entregó a la línea aérea de bandera, pero se ignora el paradero y uso del Airbus presidencial venezolano

ChavezCamastron

El miércoles pasado fue un día de primicias para el presidente venezolano, Nicolás Maduro. No solo se reunió con una decena de dirigentes de oposición, levantando así un veto que ni siquiera el líder ya fallecido de la revolución, Hugo Chávez, había osado tocar. También esa misma noche rompió el sello, aunque solo parcialmente, de otro misterio: la suerte del avión presidencial.

“Entregué el presidencial a Conviasa para reforzar la flota”, soltó a quien quiso oírlo entre los presentes y los ciudadanos que desde sus casas seguían por televisión el evento. Era la primera alusión que hacía al Airbus ACJ-319, de matrícula AMB001 –siglas correspondientes a la Aviación Militar Bolivariana-, desde septiembre pasado, cuando denunció públicamente que la aeronave presentaba graves desperfectos.

El aparato fue adquirido a la aeronáutica multinacional europea en 2001 por órdenes de Hugo Chávez, el mandatario en funciones entonces, que luego se revelaría un empedernido viajero. Se calcula que a bordo del jet bimotor –negociado por un precio base de 61 millones de dólares, además de los costos de modificación, que sumaron otros 15 millones adicionales- el comandante revolucionario recorrió cerca de 300.000 kilómetros –casi una ida a la Luna- durante 12 años por todo el planeta. Esos periplos incluyeron las frecuentes conexiones desde Caracas con La Habana, Cuba, ciudad a la que viajaría en distintas ocasiones para tratarse un cáncer que le fue descubierto en junio y que, finalmente, le costó la vida en marzo de 2013.

Según algunas versiones, en esa última etapa se hicieron adaptaciones en la cabina de la aeronave para que alojara equipamiento médico y sirviera en la práctica como avión-ambulancia.

En giras internacionales de largo alcance, Chávez se dio el lujo de dejar de lado un aparato prácticamente hecho a su medida –el constructor en Francia debió repintar el fuselaje con un diseño que el propio teniente coronel concibió- para viajar a bordo de aparatos cedidos por –o rentados a- Cubana de Aviación, la línea aérea de bandera de la isla. En tales casos, el trasbordo se tomó como una medida de precaución ante eventuales atentados contra el líder venezolano, que así daba muestra simultánea tanto de la desconfianza que a veces sentía por la oficialidad de la Fuerza Aérea encargada de pilotar el avión, como de su cercanía al régimen de los hermanos Castro.

Con todo, el Airbus presidencial era considerado como una de las prendas más finas en el legado que Nicolás Maduro recibió de Chávez, cuando este murió y su sucesor quedó elegido por los votos en abril de 2013 como nuevo presidente de la República. En septiembre, al emprender Maduro su primera gira internacional de importancia a China –el gran fiador actual de la revolución bolivariana-, los observadores se sintieron sorprendidos tras percatarse de que el nuevo presidente viajaba con un equipo de Cubana de Aviación.

Cuando regresó, se sintió obligado a explicar la anomalía. Según su relato, el Airbus presidencial venía de pasar un período inusualmente largo de cinco meses en Francia para un overhaul o mantenimiento mayor. Cuando le fue entregado, justo antes de iniciar su gira china, Maduro habría sentido una corazonada. “No me sentía cómodo y ordené que le hicieran una revisión a fondo”, siguió relatando el presidente venezolano, “y efectivamente después de 10 o 12 de pruebas intensas de diversos signos, apareció una grave falla en una de las alas del avión, una muy grave falla después de cinco meses de estarse reparando”.

Maduro no se mordió la lengua para insinuar que el fabricante europeo, o alguien de su personal, pudiera haber estado conspirando para fraguar un atentado en su contra, y anunció que emprendería acciones legales contra Airbus. Un portavoz de la compañía respondió desde su sede corporativa en Francia con un comunicado, en el que se dijo dispuesta a colaborar en cualquier investigación, pero aclarando a la vez que el mantenimiento no había estado a su cargo sino de un subcontratista. Se ignora si a la fecha Venezuela ya ha dado inicio a alguna disputa legal contra Airbus en tribunales locales o internacionales.

Ya para entonces hacía tiempo que nadie había vuelto a ver la aeronave. Todavía hoy, que reapareció en el relato presidencial, sigue escondida.

Fuentes del sector han comentado que la presidencia de Venezuela ya encargó a Embraer, la pujante empresa aeronáutica brasileña, la fabricación y configuración de la versión ejecutiva del modelo E-190 para transportar a Maduro. Los precios de referencia en línea del modelo básico rondan los 50 millones de dólares. Sin embargo, se supo que el presidente venezolano solicitó que se adaptara la cabina del avión a los parámetros de configuración del Ilyushin de Cubana de Aviación que usó durante su reciente gira asiática.

Al calor de la relación especial que Brasilia, bajo las gestiones de los presidentes Lula da Silva y Dilma Roussef, procura establecer con Caracas, Embraer se ha convertido en el principal proveedor de equipamiento para Conviasa, la línea aérea estatal de bandera de Venezuela, que cubre rutas internas y exteriores.

Precisamente es Conviasa el receptor mencionado por Maduro para el Airbus que hasta ahora prestó servicios a la presidencia. El mandatario venezolano no aclaró si la grave falla que reportó en la estructura de las alas ya se había reparado, dónde y cuándo se habría preparado la aeronave para una operación comercial con pasajeros, y ni siquiera en qué lugar se le podía encontrar.

Las palabras de Maduro, en todo caso, parecieron querer atajar la serie de conjeturas que durante los últimos días habían circulado sobre el destino del Airbus que Chávez compró. Citando a presuntos informantes dentro de la Fuerza Aérea –su Grupo Aéreo No. 4 es el responsable de trasladar al presidente-, voceros de oposición llegaron a asegurar que se encontraba en servicio en Cuba. Otra versión, digna tal vez de menos crédito, hablaba de un misterioso Airbus negro, con licencia de Eslovaquia, que estaciona con regularidad en el aeropuerto de Maiquetía –que sirve a la ciudad de Caracas- y estaría siendo tripulado por oficiales cubanos.

Esta semana se anunció que la próxima gira internacional de Maduro será a la lejana India. El nuevo presidente –que fue Canciller por casi seis años- parece tentado a seguir participando en el juego global al que Chávez, su mentor, se aficionó tanto. En el presupuesto nacional de 2014, se reserva una partida de 12 millones de dólares para costear las giras presidenciales. Solo entonces se conocerá si para salvar las distancias intercontinentales ya podrá contar con un avión de estreno o si deberá recurrir de nuevo a la cooperación cubana.

Por qué importan las elecciones municipales en Venezuela

Nicolás Maduro y Henrique Capriles

Maduro y Capriles no se lanzan, pero lideraron la campaña.

Han pasado 233 días desde que Nicolás Maduro asumió como presidente de Venezuela, y la oposición aún no lo reconoce como tal.

Para Henrique Capriles, el excandidato y para algunos “presidente”, las elecciones que ganó Maduro el 14 de abril por apenas 223.599 votos (1,5%) fueron “fraudulentas”.

El líder de la unidad se negó a tomar las calles al día siguiente y optó por la vía institucional. Sin embargo, las denuncias del fraude no tuvieron eco en los órganos de justicia locales -en parte controlados por el gobierno- y están pendientes en las instancias internacionales.

Pero la oposición está convencida de que es mayoría. Y por eso los comicios municipales de este domingo se han convertido en su única oportunidad de demostrarlo.

Ambas facciones se enfrentaron tres veces en el último año y 15 en una década. Pero después del domingo, no habrá elecciones en este país hasta fines de 2015.

Así que este domingo los venezolanos no solo votan por 337 alcaldes y 2.389 concejales.

Plebiscito en crisis económica

A nueve meses de la muerte del presidente Hugo Chávez, el gobierno de Maduro se ha tenido que enfrentar a una difícil situación económica.

La inflación llegó a su nivel más alto desde que gobierna el chavismo; la escasez llegó al 21%, el dólar paralelo está disparado y las reservas internacionales parecen ir en caída libre.

Para el gobierno, la situación se debe a una “guerra económica” de la derecha, el capitalismo y el imperialismo contra su gobierno socialista. Para la oposición, todo es culpa de la corrupción, la incompetencia y la rígida política económica del gobierno.

La carta de presentación del presidente Maduro ante el mundo fueron sus diferentes deslices públicos y una imitación -desafortunada, dirán algunos- de Chávez. Sus números en las encuestas no fueron buenos en un principio.

Pero en el último mes, Maduro emprendió una política económica que parece haberle devuelto la popularidad entre los venezolanos.

Facultado por una Ley Habilitante que le permite gobernar por decreto, el presidente regularizó los precios de electrodomésticos y autos, entre otras cosas, con el argumento de que “especuladores” y “usureros” los estaban inflando.

Si las medidas desestimulan la inversión, generan desempleo o producen aún más escasez, se sabrá el próximo año. Pero antes de las elecciones, Maduro ha podido mostrarse como quien “toma el toro por los cuernos” y consiguió la excusa para tachar a la oposición de apoyar la especulación y la corrupción.

En medio de la compleja situación económica, la oposición planteó las municipales como un plebiscito al gobierno chavista para mandarle un mensaje de que su proyecto socialista y de economía estatizada y planificada no cuenta con el apoyo del pueblo al que tanto apela.

Campaña “ventajista”

Propaganda de Ernesto VillegasEn las calles de Caracas se ve todo tipo de propaganda electoral, sobre todo de candidatos oficialistas.

Las medidas económicas han sido acompañadas de una aguerrida campaña mediática del gobierno y un intento de limitar a la oposición.

El rector opositor del Consejo Nacional Electoral Vicente Díaz denominó esta campaña como “la más ventajista de la historia”.

El día de los comicios, el 8 de diciembre, se conmemora un año de la última alocución televisiva de Chávez -en la que nombró a Maduro como su “hijo”- y fue declarado por ley como el Día de la Lealtad y el Amor a Chávez.

Hace dos semanas, chavistas destruyeron una tarima donde esperaba hablar Capriles en la ciudad de Maracay y trataron de incendiar su camioneta. Por otro lado, su jefe de giras, Alejandro Silva, fue detenido por la inteligencia militar en un extraño episodio.

Un candidato de oposición fue descalificado para lanzarse y otros dos, acusados ante la justicia.

Mientras los diferentes canales de televisión del Estado transmitieron los actos de campaña de los candidatos chavistas, varios periódicos y emisoras independientes tuvieron que cerrar por acusaciones judiciales. La oposición tuvo que aferrarse a la difusión de su mensaje por internet.

 

Frontera Colombia VenezuelaLa frontera con Colombia está cerrada por las elecciones en Venezuela.

Tras las elecciones municipales de 2008, el chavismo controla el 84% de las alcaldías del país, pero no las dos más simbólicas: Caracas y la segunda ciudad más grande, Maracaibo.

Partiendo del hecho de que, como dicen expertos, la política en Venezuela es muy personalista, la estrategia del gobierno ha sido traer beisbolistas, modelos o presentadores de televisión como candidatos a las alcaldías.

Sin embargo, el número de alcaldías no será el único elemento que estará bajo el escrutinio de los analistas electorales: la disputa en las ciudades emblemáticas y el número total de votos también se tendrán en cuenta.

Y, por eso, probablemente no va a haber un claro ganador. Algunos analistas han manifestado preocupación de que la elección se haya planteado como “la hora cero”.

A la oposición la amenazan la frustración y la indiferencia de algunos de sus eventuales electores, así como la posibilidad de que la abstención sea alta. No obstante, fue la misma unidad la que proyectó las elecciones como algo más que unas municipales.

La pregunta es si, con eso, Capriles y sus partidarios dictaron su propia sentencia.