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Guest Commentary: Can political opposition exist in Venezuela?

In the media coverage of Venezuela, two competing pictures of Hugo Chavez emerge. In the sympathetic portrayal, he is shown reaching out to the poor population in Venezuela and using his nation’s oil resources to fund social programs aiming to reduce Venezuela’s staggering income inequality. In the malign portrayal, Chavez is hard at work undermining Venezuela’s democratic institutions to monopolize the election process.

Less visible, but equally clear are the problems facing his political opposition. These are the parties of the well-off in Venezuela with easy access to the partisan press. But they still can’t find their footing in Venezuelan politics after governing the country to the vast disadvantage of a majority of Venezuelans. They are unable to provide a plausible alternative to voters who have reservations about Chavez. The voter is left to choose between Chavez and an opposition that nurses an ever-growing resentment toward the current president. What will motivate that voter, those voters, to get to the ballot box?

In Eric Wingerter’s article, “As Elections Loom, Venezuela’s Opposition Won’t Commit to Participation,” for the VIO, he wrote, “Barring extreme unforeseen circumstances, President Hugo Chávez will be elected to a second term this December.” That’s probably right, if only because the role of the opposition in that election is now so unclear.

To its discredit, the opposition skipped the parliamentary elections last winter, leaving the people it represents largely voiceless in their nation’s legislature. It needs to make a better showing in the upcoming presidential polls. Granted, they do not appear to have much of a chance at winning this election, but they can begin to build up their position and support for the election in 2012.

That process can only start with the development of a governing program that addresses the major concerns of the lower-working class. Some have decided to boycott the election to demonstrate their disapproval of this “one party state” Chávez has created. However, boycotting only perpetuates the problem. A much better approach would be to follow Julio Borges’ example and take action in an effort to change the current system, if they can persuade the voters of Venezuela to do so.

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Anonymous Yakima said...

Yeah, a political opposition can exist, but they have to participate. Chavez will win this year, but it's up to an opposition to make a sensible case rather than relying on obsrtuction tactics. The opposition, as Wingerter noted in his article, needs to make a commitment to democracy.

April 07, 2006 3:46 PM


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