Chavismo violence aims to tarnish the primary elections of the Venezuelan opposition

Chavismo violence aims to tarnish the primary elections of the Venezuelan opposition

Comando de Campaña de María Corina Machado en La Fría, estado Táchira





In recent weeks, the road to the primary election on October 22nd, has been marred by political violence. Threats, physical and verbal attacks, vandalism and intimidation by supporters and spokesmen of the ruling party are some of the violent acts to which some of the candidates and their followers have been victims during their tours through different states of the country.

By Correspondent

On July 22nd, the headquarters of the María Corina Machado’s Campaign Command in La Fría, Táchira State, in western Venezuela, and which would be inaugurated two days later, ‘woke up’ with graffiti identified with the initials of the Colombian guerrilla, the ELN (National Liberation Army). ‘Death to María Corina’, ‘Primaries without María Corina’, were spray painted on the walls.

A similar event occurred on August 4th in Apure, where the headquarters of María Corina’s Campaign Command in San Fernando was attacked (southwestern Venezuelan plains), a few hours after its inauguration. The subjects threw paint on its facade and painted threatening messages.

Likewise, in a video published on the X platform (formerly Twitter), and recorded by ‘Vente Venezuela’ (Ms. Machado political organization), the Governor of Trujillo and member of the PSUV Political Council, Gerardo Márquez, called on party militants to attack Ms. Machado and any opposition candidate.

“When a María Corina, or whoever, comes here, we have to beat them out of the Pampanito Municipality,” were his words.

On August 12th, the candidate for ‘Encuentro Ciudadano’, Delsa Solórzano, exposed the death threats that she has received through social networks since last July on her ‘X platform’ account.

“Fernando Villavicencio has already fallen, now it is the turn of Delsa Solórzano, so that it is clear to them that socialism and the Bolivarian revolution of Chávez, Maduro and Diosdado will win forever,” says one of the messages sent to Solórzano. “Delsa, don’t get dressed, you’re not going, it’s Nicolás who is going,” says another of the texts.

The Public Ministry appointed the 94th National Prosecutor for Human Rights to investigate the incident. However, Solórzano indicated that she will go to international instances, as she assured that in Venezuela there is no rule of law.

On the other hand, the ‘Primero Justicia’ candidate, Henrique Capriles, specified that his party has counted at least eight attacks received during his tour of the country since last March.

On August 15th, followers of the Nicolás Maduro regime attacked and destroyed the Caujarito Stadium in San Fernando de Apure to disrupt Capriles’ visit. In the event 39 people were injured, in addition they recorded “theft of nine telephones, four motorcycles, the destruction of 98 chairs, four tables, sound system smashed, the smashing of windows in a family home, and cars as well, where windshields were broken,” said Capriles.

In an opinion article, the candidate in primaries, César Pérez Vivas, held Maduro and those around him responsible for the physical integrity and lives of those who are in this political race. He considered that the assassination of the presidential candidate in Ecuador, Fernando Villavicencio, should be a reason for reflection for all Venezuelans.

“We cannot ‘pisar el peine’ (“step on the comb”, fall in the trap) of violence that the red nomenklatura shows at every moment,” he stressed.

Respect for the candidates

Following these acts of political violence, on August 22nd, the National Primary Commission asked respect for the 13 candidates running for the election of October 22nd.

“Threatening expressions, as well as intimidating or violent actions, are incompatible with the hope of building democracy for all, and must be rejected by all Venezuelan democrats. The primary is peaceful, democratic and constitutional in its means and in its purposes”, reads the statement of the National Commission for the Primary issued within the framework of the beginning of the electoral campaign that ends on October 20th.

The 13 candidates who aspire to become the unitary candidate to face the ruling party in the 2024 presidential elections are: Andrés Caleca, Andrés Velásquez, Carlos Prosperi, César Almeida, César Pérez Vivas, Delsa Solórzano, Freddy Superlano, Gloria Pinho, Henrique Capriles, Luis Farías, María Corina Machado, Roberto Enríquez and Tamara Adrián.

Discourage voting

For the political scientist Piero Trepiccione, what is behind all these violent acts is a political strategy of those who hold power to demobilize, demotivate and sow hopelessness in the vote as a mechanism to generate changes in the government system.

He stressed that one of the main characteristics of these violent acts is that there is no spontaneity, but these are coordinated efforts to create opinion matrices that seek to discourage collective interest in political participation.

“The social and economic situation of the country leads to widespread discontent that causes electoral trends to disfavor those who hold power. So that this does not translate into a massive vote against whoever holds power, these stratagems seek to discourage political participation, so all possible mechanisms are sought so that people do not participate or understand that under the electoral route there is no possibility of producing changes in the political system,” he said.

For her part, María Verónica Torres, a Professor of Constitutional Law and Political Studies, points out that the situation of violence that is being experienced is nothing more than the implementation of the “electoral operations” that Chavismo activates to stay in power in each election, whose strategies have been modified and adapted over the years, according to the current political and economic context.

“There is a counter-electoral organization that has worked for Chavismo for many years. These are the radical groups that discourage opposition political campaigns, and on election day they generally attack the most popular polling stations. This system has become more sophisticated, it began with the ‘Bolivarian circles’, then the ‘networks’, now there are even ‘quadrants of the block guards’,” she specified.

Torres explained that the first objective of this system of political violence is to discourage the campaign and the visits of the candidates so that they cannot make themselves known for fear of being victims of some aggression. She pointed out that this results in the electorate knowing neither the candidate nor his proposals. “In a country where the media are censored and where barely 20% to 30% of the country has more or less stable internet connectivity, field trips are very important for candidates, because it is the way to make themselves known,” she stressed.

She pointed out that due to censorship of the media and the limited internet connectivity for the majority of the Venezuelan population, the Government has controlled what is known in politics as the “campaign by air”, which are campaigns through social networks and media. But now it seeks to control, through violence, the “campaigns by land”, which are the tours of the candidates through the different states of the country.

Voter safety

Torres added that another aspect to take into account is the safety of voters during the election on October 22nd. “The lack of police and military protection for the primary elections is a problem (…) The ‘Plan República’ (Republic Plan) provided a minimum of personal security for voters. At this moment, the National Commission for Primary Education has no way of assuring any protection and the person who is going to vote has to be aware of those risks,” she said.

The political scientist Piero Trepiccione considered that on the day of October 22nd, there must be a massive exercise of citizenship to ward off violent groups.

“When your area is active, organized, articulated, people are much more aware of public affairs, of public and political participation, to the same extent it is much easier to dismantle these violent groups or those that appeal to violence with massive participation, with massive organization, massive enthusiasm, one can fight back political violence,” he stated, while opining that the primary is one of the best tools to reconnect the people with the political leadership of the country.

Finally, Professor Torres commented that a change in the culture of Venezuelans regarding elections is beginning to be seen. “Venezuelans have resumed democratic awareness around freedoms and not around government subsidies, which is what had been happening with the ‘misiones’ (missions, government dole, handouts) and all that, and people ended up voting in favor of the government because it was much more comfortable to live of the subsidies than to work.”

“That culture has changed a bit and Venezuelans are now doing a much deeper political analysis and are focusing on citizen liberties. This is a cause for celebration and I believe that all the opposition candidates are contributing to the consolidation of this new democratic culture,” she stated.