Who is afraid of María Corina Machado? | International

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The government of Nicolás Maduro did what was expected: pulled out of its sleeve a disqualification against the pre-candidate María Corina Machado. She has the first option of winning the opposition primaries to choose the presidential candidacy and is probably the person who has best capitalized on the exhaustion of Venezuelans. However, the fact that Madurismo is so predictable does not mean that its opponents have a strategy to confront it effectively and democratically. The electoral route is the most viable option, but it is fraught with risk. Therefore, those who believe in this path are going to need a lot of support to avoid shortcuts.

Some of the reasons for the fascination with Machado have to do with a general weariness against the political class. In Venezuela, a pre-electoral climate similar to that of 1997 is perceived, when the breakdown of the party system was already inevitable. A year later, Hugo Chávez, the anti-establishment candidate, came to power.

An opinion study by the firm Delphos, released in the first week of July, shows that 85.2% of Venezuelans agree that a change of government is necessary. The willingness to vote in the primaries went from 45.9% in November 2022 to 67.1%. In this period the perception that Machado is the leader of the opposition grew from 6.1% to 33%. Among those who declare themselves to be opponents, Machado registers a support of 51.9%.

At this moment hunger came together with the desire to eat. Machado, of a liberal tendency, and whose proposals did not sink in, fits perfectly with the current claim of Venezuelans for whom the most pressing problems are of an economic nature. She has dedicated herself in recent months to generating a movement that channels discontent. Although she is a leader who has been on the public scene for about 20 years, she is seen as an emerging one.

For the first time in years, the Venezuelan majority opposition began the electoral cycle with a clear willingness to participate in the process. This includes Machado and other candidates who on different occasions spoke out in favor of the boycott. Presidential elections are expected in 2024 and in 2025 elections to elect the National Assembly, governors, mayors, regional legislators and councilors.

In the 2018 presidential election, the largest opposition parties called for abstention. Maduro was re-elected, but his government was ignored by the United States, Colombia, most of the countries that make up the European Union, as well as other Latin American countries, including Mexico.

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It is supposed that it is convenient for the madurismo to participate in a new election and win it as cleanly as possible so as not to spend another six years as a survivor. However, if the elections were held tomorrow, the government would lose to a united opposition candidacy.

Hence, they do what they consider necessary, without it being legal, to prevent an opponent from taking sufficient flight. It is a tactic they often resort to.

Chavismo deposed Machado in 2014 from his position as a deputy to the National Assembly. In 2015 she was given a first disqualification. On June 30, the Comptroller's Office informed, through a third party, of a new sanction for 15 years. Not even herself knew about it.

Two other primary candidates are also politically disqualified. They are the former governor and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles; and the winner of a gubernatorial election, in 2021, Freddy Superlano, whose victory in Barinas, the home state of leader Hugo Chávez, was denied by the Supreme Court of Justice.

The opposition primaries are due to be held on October 22, 2023, but they run through their own minefield. Recently, the Maduro government imploded the National Electoral Council appointed in 2021. Such a decision forced the Primaries Commission to carry out a self-managed process, for which it does not have financial or logistical resources.

The previous obstacles have been as expected. What is striking is not that the madurismo is following the script of a film that we have already seen; Rather, the opposition grouped in the majority parties does not seem to have a sufficiently clear vision to confront this strategy.

Several questions arise from the fact that disabled people are participating in the internships. If one of them is elected, what will happen when she cannot be registered for a presidential election. Machado's candidacy may well deflate or, on the contrary, continue to rise. If she wins the primary, what would be her next step? What happens if the government gives in and lifts the penalties for some candidates and not others?

Some have raised the thesis of a consensus candidacy, but it is increasingly difficult to think that this will happen.

On facing sidewalks there are incentives. The madurismo wants to get rid of international sanctions; the opposition needs its candidates to have their disqualifications lifted. It seems like a simple game of giving and giving, but it is not.

The majority opposition parties do not look favorably on Machado.

On the other hand, in some international spaces a fatigue is detected with respect to the Venezuelan issue. The simplest and most dangerous thing is to assume that since Maduro's isolationism failed, then the new option is a normalization of his authoritarian government, without conditions.

In the same way, the different factions of the traditional opposition, especially that of Machado, cannot deviate from the electoral route, no matter how many obstacles there are. Less falling into an insurrectional path that leads to scenarios of political violence.

Despite the intricacy of the terrain, there is an opportunity to change the well-known script that has plunged us into an eternal groundhog day. But to achieve this, even more support from international actors is needed.

There is a frozen negotiating table in Mexico that may be worth reactivating. Among the seven points of the memorandum of understanding, two were directly linked to political rights and electoral guarantees.

Madurismo has tried to circumvent this instance through negotiations with the United States. However, it did not count on the rise that a primary election could awaken in the opposition; and less the growth of Machado. It is difficult to predict what can happen to her; but, deep down, the mere fact that he has reached where he is at this moment, forces us to think about what other waters are moving in Venezuelan society. In whichever they are, it seems that Machado is willing to navigate them.

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