2024 begins with the weight of being a defining year for Venezuela. These pieces will advance the objective of holding presidential elections with guarantees for the opposition, which will allow for a peaceful political transition and address the long-running crisis the country has grappled with. Nicolás Maduro, in his first statements of the year, has returned to the idea that the presidential candidate of Chavismo has not yet been defined, an issue on which there is disagreement in various circles of power in the face of the challenge facing the government. There has been discussion. According to the latest surveys conducted by Delphos, 85% of the country wants change.
“I’m not me, I’m part of a team: the military political high command of the revolution,” the president said in an interview with Frenchman Ignacio Ramonet on January 1, which has already become part of the government’s Christmas traditions. , “It is too early to say whether I will be Chavismo’s candidate for the elections. The year has just begun. only God knows. No Diosdado… Lord! (Jokes). We hope that the electoral scenarios of the process taking place will be defined, and I am sure that, with God’s blessings, we will take the best decision.
Maduro is a burden that Chavismo pulls for its continuation in power. With one of the lowest popularity ratings of his mandate, not reaching 20% approval, speculation has gained strength in recent months about the emergence of new successors to succeed Hugo Chávez after a season of internal purges. and the redefinition of power groups within the ruling faction, which, in moments of crisis, silences its internal differences and acts monolithically.
In his statements with Ramonet, Maduro goes against the flow of the usual Maduro, who has been campaigning continuously and who, despite the economy and the country being in ruins, has managed to remain stable and maintain the delicate balance of powers within Chavismo. Are. Although he says the decision has not been made, Maduro is the virtual candidate and in that role he has been strengthened after secret talks in Doha achieved a feat by resuming direct talks with the United States, which secured the independence of Barbados. The deal promoted the easing of oil sanctions and the release of a handful of American and Venezuelan political prisoners in exchange for the release of Colombian businessman Alex Saab, a key player in Maduro’s power structure, who was being held in Miami on money laundering charges. Was taken in.
Nevertheless, there are tendencies within Chavismo-Madurismo that do not see this clearly. Maduro’s ally, Rafael Lacava, governor of Carabobo state, is beginning to appear in the polls. Maduro put him in charge of renewing trade relations with China, and last November he signed agreements in Shanghai on behalf of the Venezuelan state. There, LaCava hinted at the change that Chavismo intends: a transition toward the Chinese model, with economic opening under severe political restrictions.
There are also other names such as Hector Rodríguez, governor of the state of Miranda, a face of the youth of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, on which an epic of a possible dolphin or renewal successor has been built. He is close to Maduro, who recently thanked him for his efforts to free Saab as a member of the delegation that negotiated with the opposition. Rodríguez has recently founded a party with environmentalist intentions outside the PSUV, which has swallowed up and oppressed other organizations coming from Chavismo and supporting it for years and which is now part of the Venezuelan Communist Party. Kind of are on the other side.
Other alternative figures who have joined the discussion are brothers Jorge and Delcy Rodríguez, the head of parliament and Maduro’s vice president, who have risen to prominence in this new phase in which the government has managed to reconnect with the world. There has also been discussion of comparing opposition candidate María Corina Machado, elected with 92% of the votes in the primaries, to another woman, who in this case would be Delsey Rodríguez. Diosdado Cabello lives in the shadow of these profiles.
Given this panorama, which includes internal pressures on the sustainability of Chavismo as an idea, Maduro’s statement about the uncertainty of his candidacy is a provocation whose intentions span different dimensions, says political scientist and analyst Nick Evans. Says: “One dimension is gauging the political pulse and reaction of certain actors, to see if there is an advanced player as a result of the possibility that there is a perception that he or she is not going to be the candidate.”
Evans says there are objective conditions to evaluate whether he is going to be a candidate against Maria Corina Machado, who has a 70-point advantage in almost all polls. The lawsuit filed by the opposition leader in the Supreme Court seeking his disqualification has not been responded to, although the deadline has already been met. Even without the decision, Machado said in a message broadcast on his social networks on January 1: “If they press and touch one, the other will strengthen it and the task will be completed, because we are millions of people.”
Maduro has made an important communications performance in recent months by launching two new television programs, in which he participates with his wife, Cilia Flores. He has focused on appealing to the youth, bringing TikTokers with millions of followers to television and trying to make a generation laugh at his jokes. The idea circulating that Maduro, tired of years of conflict, might give up his position in exchange for retirement from the good fight, or to preserve the revolution, conflicts with the contours of his government. “Those who rule in an autocratic manner as Maduro has ruled do not have an angel who does not wish to preserve power. I suspect the presidential couple has that business, and here I include Celia Flores, who is someone who also takes responsibility,” Evans says.
In addition to Machado being able to condition his participation in the 2024 presidential elections, Maduro has already shown the cards that he may continue to play this year to ensure his permanency in power, especially with the United States. In conversation. “Joker, now he has a regional conflict that he has activated with Guyana over the territory of Essequibo,” says Evans. “An issue that could escalate to such an extent that elections scheduled for later this year could be postponed , It will depend on how paved the electoral path is.
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