Presidential election in Venezuela | An opposition heavyweight as a surprise candidate against Maduro

(Caracas) Opposition figure Manuel Rosales, already a candidate against Hugo Chavez in 2006 and governor of the oil state of Zulia (northwest), will be the opponent of outgoing head of state Nicolas Maduro during the presidential election on July 28 in Venezuela, for which the grand opposition coalition was unable to submit a candidacy.

An old hand in politics, Mr. Rosales, 71, was able to register at the last minute before the closing time for applications set at midnight Monday evening.

“Rosales was registered by Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT). They did it by automated means” on the website of the National Electoral Council (CNE), announced on the night of Monday to Tuesday the president of the CNE, Elvis Amoroso.

The main opposition coalition Democratic Unitary Platform (PUD), to which Mr. Rosales’s party belongs, protested at not having been able to access this same CNE site. Many analysts accuse the CNE of being under the orders of those in power and of having wanted to prevent the candidacy of the opposition endorsed by its leader, Maria Corina Machado.

“We inform national public opinion and the world that we have worked all day (…) to try to exercise our constitutional right to nominate our candidate. We were not allowed to access the system for registering candidates, said Omar Barboza, an opposition official, in a video broadcast by the PUD.

She wanted to register the candidacy of Corina Yoris, university professor, in place of Mme Machado, herself ineligible. The platform requests an extension of the registration period.

For his part, Nicolas Maduro, accompanied by a red tide of several thousand supporters, was able to submit his candidacy with great fanfare with speeches and music.

“I swear to you, on my mother, on my father, on the Holy Trinity, that on July 28, the day of the 70e anniversary of Comandante Chavez, we will beat them again,” said Mr. Maduro, dressed in a tracksuit in the colors of Venezuela.

“The people have a project!” The people have the strength! The people have a candidate: Nicolas Maduro Moros, (spiritual) son of Chavez” (1999-2013), added the president.

Mr. Maduro, who notably brandished a sign with drawings of Simon Bolivar (emblematic figure of the emancipation of the Spanish colonies in Latin America) and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, also assured that two armed men linked to Mr. Maduro’s partyme Machado were arrested after infiltrating the motorcade with the aim of assassinating him. Prosecutors said they would be charged with terrorism and attempted murder. The opposition called the accusation “unfounded.”

Nicolas Maduro, 61, is the heir of “Chavismo” for a “socialism of the 21st century” based on nationalization, a strong presence of the State and the military apparatus.

More than 60 countries, including the United States, did not recognize his re-election in 2018, boycotted by the opposition. This non-recognition led to economic sanctions targeting in particular the country’s oil sector, which has the largest reserves of black gold on the planet.

Red light for the opposition

It now remains to be seen whether Mme Machado, who won the PUD primaries hands down and seemed to be able to rally the entire opposition behind her, will support or not the candidacy of Manuel Rosales.

She had been declared ineligible, accused by the authorities of corruption and of supporting a foreign invasion, which she always denied.


Maria Corina Machado and Corina Yoris

To compensate for this ineligibility, she had appointed on Friday a university professor, Corina Yoris, 80 years old, unknown to the general public, to replace her.

Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay expressed in a joint statement “their concern” over the non-registration of Mme Yoris.

Many analysts believe it is possible that the CNE did not want to accept a candidacy that could displease the government because it was considered difficult to beat.

Mr. Rosales is not unanimous in the opposition where he is criticized for his regular contacts with President Maduro since he was governor of Zulia.

The CNE has not yet released the list of registered applicants. For the moment, at least nine other candidates who present themselves as opponents, but are considered by the opposition as “scorpions” collaborators of power, are registered. The opposition believes that their candidacies are intended to divide the votes in this one-round election. The final list of candidates will not be made public before the end of April.


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