Venezuelan Opposition Defy Intimidation with Nationwide Rallies
EspañolOn Saturday, opposition activists took to the streets in 29 cities across Venezuela, and 15 other cities abroad, to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López, who was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison earlier this month.
The protests also kick off the opposition’s campaign efforts heading into legislative elections scheduled for December 6. If victorious in the election, opposition candidates have promised to pass an amnesty law that would release López and 77 other political prisoners from jail.
“The first law that we will pass is amnesty for Leopoldo López and political prisoners,” Henry Ramos Allup, leader of the Democratic Action party and legislative candidate in Caracas, said during the demonstration in the capital. “Then, [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro and his ministers should get ready, because we are going to question all of them to find out what happened to the resources in this country.”
“They better not try any of their tricks, because we can and we will use all democratic tools within the Constitution to restore democracy and the balance of power,” Ramos Allup said.
The general coordinator for López’s Popular Will party, Freddy Guevara, added that “the Constitution provides four procedures to achieve political change, and we can propose any of them from Congress.”
Ramos Allup also dismissed the rumors that Maduro may suspend the elections or attempt a self-coup to dissolve the National Assembly. Maduro’s government “has neither the muscle nor the glands” to pull it off, he said.
A spokesman for the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) told the PanAm Post that they are confident they will win the 88 seats necessary to secure a majority in the legislature, considering the 20 to 40 point lead most opposition candidates currently enjoy in the polls.
The MUD official says they are focusing primarily in 44 out of the 87 electoral circuits in which the opposition has never won, especially in places where previous elections have been close.”We can look for a wider majority [in these places],” he said.
The spokesman adds that other MUD officials are even more optimistic and believe the opposition can secure 100 seats in the National Assembly, putting them close to the 101 seats necessary to replace Supreme Court justices, the attorney and comptroller general, and members of the National Council of Elections (CNE), who the opposition have frequently accused of “Chavista bias.”
However, the current Venezuelan electoral system tends to favor small districts where Chavista candidates have traditionally done well, as opposed to big cities, where the opposition garners more support. Therefore, winning a greater number of votes throughout the country does not necessarily translate to a majority in Congress.
Jesús Torrealba, secretary general of the Democratic Unity Roundtable, reiterated on Saturday that the Venezuelan opposition’s strategy for victory is “the street and the vote.”
The large demonstrations that took place in Caracas were replicated throughout the country, according to Torrealba. “We are repeating [these demonstrations] in all of Venezuela and throughout the world,” he said.
Venezuelans living in Madrid, Miami, and Bogotá also reportedly marched on Saturday to the demand Leopoldo López’s release, a request that has also been made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions.
Local residents could only follow Saturday’s events over social media, using the hashtag #YoSiSalgo19S (I will go out on September 19), since traditional media outlets in the country largely ignored the demonstrations.
“Venezuelans gather in Madrid in front of the Venezuelan embassy.”
— Danibett Zuniga (@DZunigaT51) September 19, 2015
“Venezuelans Abroad — Venezuelans protest at Bay Park in Miami.”