Venezuela: opposition pre-candidates debate amid threat of disqualifications

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Despite the possibility that many will be disqualified from participating in electoral contests, almost a dozen Venezuelan opponents are debating for the first time on Wednesday after their registration in the primaries in which they will choose a single candidate for the 2024 presidential elections.

The initiative is part of the opposition's efforts to spark voter enthusiasm and cement unity after years of disagreements between its leaders and internal fractures.

The loss of support for government critics was a consequence of the confrontation of positions to face the late former president Hugo Chávez and his political heir Nicolás Maduro, who have dominated the political scene since 1999.

The primaries on October 22 will be open to all Venezuelans registered on the electoral roll.

Participating in the debate, which is being held at the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas, are former legislators María Corina Machado from the Vente Venezuela party, Delsa Solórzano from Encuentro Ciudadano, Andrés Velásquez from Causa R, Freddy Superlano from Voluntad Popular and Carlos Prosperi from Acción Democrática. .

So do Cesar Pérez Vivas of Concertación Ciudadana and the Partido Centro Democrático and Tamara Adrián of United for Dignity, a 69-year-old lawyer who in 2015 became the first transgender legislator in Venezuela. The panelists also include the independent candidate Andrés Caleca, who chaired the electoral body between March and December 1999.

Among those absent stands out Henrique Capriles, who lost the 2013 presidential elections to Maduro.

Capriles, from the Primero Justicia party, ratified on Monday that he will participate in the primaries after facing rumors about a resignation linked to the validity of a disqualification against him from holding public office for 15 years.

In 2017 Capriles was disqualified by the Comptroller General, controlled by the Maduro government, as a result of an administrative process for alleged irregularities as governor of the state of Miranda. Six years later the charges have not been ratified by any court.

It is feared that many candidates will be disqualified for being part of the Legislative Assembly headed by the leader Juan GuaidĂł, who proclaimed himself interim president of Venezuela in 2019 when he was leader of the legislature.

Two weeks ago, the Comptroller's Office reported the disqualification of Machado after accusing her of being a participant in an alleged corruption plot orchestrated by GuaidĂł.

Machado was the deputy with the most votes in the 2010 legislative elections and was later stripped of her parliamentary investiture. Although he has not been part of the Legislature since 2014, he has been one of the most critical voices of the leaders of the largest opposition parties, including GuaidĂł, whom he accused of failing in their policy to remove Maduro from office and, already weakened, trying to agree with the government in exchange for maintaining small quotas of power.

Capriles and Machado maintain that the disqualification has been used by the government as a political weapon.

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