Reeling from a decisive loss in Sunday’s legislative elections, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has planned a “crusade to strengthen the Revolution,” lasting “however many hours it takes” on Tuesday, comprising the heads of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
“We are convening a special work, evaluation, and planning meeting in Caracas, however many hours it takes,” Maduro announced Monday night, noting that his preference was to begin the meeting Monday, but logistics prevented it. He added that a further meeting convening all 980 delegates of the PSUV would be planned for later in the week in the capital. In a somber tone, the typically bombastic Maduro expressed hope that the meeting would, he said, “give us the clarity [required] regarding the steps we have to take in this complex path following the counterrevolution’s triumph in the National Assembly.”
“We have to close ranks within our people,” he urged, encouraging the leadership to streamline the party’s ideology, a sign that Chavistas who may differ on the technical governing details of the party may no longer be welcome.
The Democratic Unity Table (MUD), the current major opposition party in Venezuela after the arrest of Popular Will party leader Leopoldo López in early 2014, won 110 seats in the National Assembly, the Venezuelan legislature, in Sunday’s election. The National Electoral Commission (CNE), controlled by Maduro, verified the results on Tuesday. The PSUV won only 55 votes in the legislature, the first time the opposition has had a majority in the National Assembly in 16 years, since the ascent of late dictator Hugo Chávez. With 110 representatives, the opposition now has the ability to censure the vice president of the country and its cabinet ministers and block enabling laws designed to expand the power of the executive.
“I refuse to surrender, from whatever trench I find myself in, my life fundamentally belongs to the Bolivarian Revolution and to our people,” National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello tweeted following the election results. Cabello, the nation’s second in command, may have to yield his position as the PSUV becomes the minority party in the legislature. He is widely believed to be running one of Latin America’s largest cocaine-smuggling operations from his post in the party.
His claim that he will not back down – presumably from the position he may have just lost – was the first in a series of alarming declarations from the Venezuelan socialist party. On Tuesday, party leader Jorge Rodríguez said he expects Chavistas to “take to the streets” following the defeat “in the event of an assault against the people,” an event he left undefined. “The right’s strategy was a war campaign … an aggression through international media towards the National Government.”
During the campaign and shortly before Sunday’s elections, Luis Manuel Díaz, a regional opposition leader, was shot dead in broad daylight during a political rally. Following reports that armed Chavista gangs had killed him, Maduro described the deceased on national television as a “homicidal delinquent.”
While the left scrambles, the newly elected Venezuelan right is working to organize its representatives. “Uniting to resist is not the same as uniting to govern,” Jesús Torrealba, the head of the MUD party, said on Tuesday. “It is not the same to unite to oppose as it is to unite to legislate. We have an immense responsibility. … There is a difference between a vote of confidence and a blank check.”