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Venezuela's opposition is falling apart

Johan Ramirez
Johan Ramirez
September 5, 2020

The Juan Guaido-led opposition wants to boycott the election in December. Another former presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, has also entered the fray. Attempts to end this crisis will fail, says Johan Ramirez.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro smile and hold hands
Image: Reuters/M. Quintero

Henrique Capriles and his followers apparently want to run their own candidates in Venezuela's upcoming parliamentary election — at least, if the regime promises to meet certain criteria. But Capriles — a two-time presidential candidate — doesn't want to negotiate with the Maduro regime directly. The Turkish government, which in recent days has spoken of a "positive dialogue," should act as a mediator.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom Germany, the United States and several dozen other countries have recognized as interim president since early 2019, sees no chance for a free of fair election. He has condemned Capriles' move.

Read more: Venezuela's opposition sees a 'trap' in Maduro's preelection pardons

Yet another political dance is underway in Caracas, one that I dare to predict will once again culminate with a crashing defeat for the opposition and renewed victory for President Nicolas Maduro.

Failure is inevitable

There are several reasons for this expected defeat. First, Maduro's regime is not interested in negotiation. Secondly, Turkey is a questionable mediator. Thirdly, this new scenario is unlikely to receive the support of the international community. Above all though, Venezuela's opposition does not enjoy the support and trust of the population, which is a prerequisite if a political movement is to gain legitimacy.

Johan Ramirez
Johan Ramirez is DW's correspondent in CaracasImage: Privat

But first things first.

The "dialogue" between the opposition and the socialist regime in Caracas over the past 20 years can be summed up in one word: failure. The political system established by Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez, has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to use democratic institutions, international bodies and the rules of politics to its own advantage.

Venezuela's rulers only sit down at the negotiating table to win time, quell protests or lend themselves the appearance of acting democratically. An authoritarian regime only negotiates when it is certain to win.

Read more: Displaced Venezuelans face poverty and pandemic in Colombia

Various international actors have attempted to mediate between Venezuela's opposition and the regime over the years: Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Chile, Canada, Norway and even the Vatican. All have failed.

Turkey ill-suited to the task

Turkey, an ally of the socialist regime ever since Chavez was in power, has itself been criticized for its authoritarian practices, persecution of political opponents and manipulation of democratic institutions. What could President Recep Tayyip Erdogan possibly contribute to peaceful, pluralistic and democratic transition?

Turkey in the role of mediator puts any international consensus at risk. Will Washington support any initiative launched by Ankara in the current geopolitical context? Unlikely!

Regime can prepare for victory

The opposition is likely to split even more with the return of Capriles to the scene, a controversial figure who had all but disappeared when Guaido took his place in the spotlight in 2018.

Capriles was criticized after the 2013 election that brought Maduro to power, for not exerting enough pressure on the regime and not presenting enough evidence to back up his accusations of election rigging.

His credibility has since taken a real hit. So will he now be able to muster up enough support? Some factions desperate for an end to the crisis might back him, but this will only serve to further divide the opposition.

Three months before the parliamentary election, the divided opposition seems to be going nowhere. It is losing precious time with its infighting, paving the way for another regime victory.

This commentary has been translated from German