Capriles warns of traitors within opposition
Maduro rival concedes pressure building on him after ruling party win in December vote
CARACAS — Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles admitted yesterday that there are divisions within his party and slammed fellow members of the Mesa de Unidad Democrática for “wanting to stab you instead of patting you in the back,” just as the ruling Socialist Party celebrated 15 years of late president Hugo Chávez’s rise to power.
The governor of the state of Miranda and the opposition’s most visible face acknowledged yesterday the the MUD is undergoing a “revision process” and that his leadership is being questioned after the ruling-party won the December, 8 local elections.
“There is a normal revision process within the MUD (...) they’ve got the right to do it, but we also have the right to decide with whom we do politics, how we present our political battle and what plans we have for the country,” Capriles said during an interview with Televen network.
Capriles admitted that the opposition party is divided over the calling of anti-government protests, which he has not supported. That, he said, has sparked criticism of his leadership.
“Some interpret (the results) of December 8 with the intention of destroying me,” he said. “It is part of the political battle. But one needs to remain vigilant because those who sit next to you are (sometimes) trying to stab you instead of patting you on the back,” he added.
The MUD was founded in 2009 by 30 small parties with different political roots but one common goal: unseating Chávez.
On December 8, the party suffered its fourth defeat in 14 months when the ruling PSUV and its allies won 242 out of the 337 municipalities up for grabs.
“I don’t feel defeated because I wasn’t actually a candidate on December 8. I’ve been a candidate twice: I lost one election and won the other. I am not obsessed with being a candidate but with changing the country,” he said.
After Chávez died of cancer in March last year, Venezuela held a presidential election on April 14. Capriles lost against current president Nicolás Maduro by 1.49 percentage points, but the result was contested by the opposition and the election denounced as fraudulent before international bodies.
Local political analysts have pointed out that the MUD will face a cohesion test in 2014. With no elections coming up, some believe Capriles will struggle to reinforce his position as opposition leader.
Meanwhile, Maduro and the ruling party are struggling with problems of their own: with rising insecurity and food shortages — and a 56 percent annual inflation last year — the government is seen scrambling to keep its act together.
15 YEARS OF CHAVISM
But none of that was evident at yesterday’s official celebration.
“Chávez’s arrival put an end to a historic cycle of betrayal and brought in the revolutionary flags,” Maduro said yesterday, speaking before thousands of supporters. “He was an extraordinary man, with moral leadership. He first gave and then did: we must follow his example of daily commitment, of collective work, humbly,” he added.
After winning the December 6,1998 election with 56.2 percent of the vote, Chávez was sworn-in as president for the first time on February 2, 1999. He was re-elected in 2000, after reforming the country’s Constitution, and then again in 2006 and 2012.
The current PSUV was founded by Chávez in 2007, just after winning his third re-election, to replace his Fifth Republic Movement and formally include its allies.
Yesterday, Maduro said that Chávez’s leadership shone the most between August 15, 2004 and the day of his death on March 5, 2013. “That was the period of consolidation of the new ethical, moral and political grounds of the new republic, of the new democracy and of the communal councils as an expression of power,” he said.