Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, predicted this week that left-wing Venezuelan opposition personality Henrique Capriles Radonski, whom it praised for seeking a “greater goal” than his peers, would soon wrest control of the anti-Maduro movement from President Juan Guaidó.
Capriles is a two-time failed presidential candidate – against both late dictator Hugo Chávez and current strongman Nicolás Maduro – and former governor of Miranda state. Maduro banned him from holding public office for 15 years in 2017, and he has not had a defined job since. Instead, he has remained a vocal personality on Twitter and promotor of his center-left party, Justice First.
This week, Capriles revealed that he had taken it upon himself to engage in dialogue with the Islamist regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey without consulting Guaidó and had negotiated the pardon of dozens of opposition figures with Maduro. Capriles’ explosive return as a relevant opposition figure followed a vocal dispute between Guaidó and María Corina Machado, the head of the center-right Vente Venezuela party, over participating in legislative elections in December. Maduro’s regime, illegally maintaining power through its monopoly on state violence, would oversee the elections and count all the votes. Maduro has presided over at least five rigged elections since 2013.
Guaidó had initially rejected participating in elections last month before making a sudden about-face last week and urging Machado to join a coalition of opposition parties in legitimizing the elections. Following Machado publishing a letter in which she rejected the proposal, calling Guaidó a failure and the result of his governance a “fiasco,” this Thursday Guaidó said he would no longer support participating in the elections.
Capriles, in contrast, broadcast remarks on Periscope urging Venezuelans to run for office under Maduro’s rule and vote in large numbers in December, earning a positive review from Havana.
“The movements that we see today have on the anti-chavista side Henrique Capriles, who has turned out to be a mediator among parties and, in addition, [the architect behind] the liberations and pardons that occurred,” Granma approvingly relayed. “This doesn’t come out of nowhere. Capriles assumed the mantle of what Guaidó let cool on the orders of the United States, which is the path of Oslo and Barbados.”
Following a failed attempt to remove Maduro from power in April, Guaidó agreed to highly unpopular talks with the Maduro regime held in Norway and Barbados, two countries that do not recognize Guaidó’s legitimacy. Maduro, not Guaidó, walked out of the talks in August 2019, calling Guaidó “racist.”
Granma noted that talks with controlled opposition were necessary for the Maduro regime.
“For the chavistas, dialogue serves as a political mechanism and, today, indisputably, we [global socialists] continue to be the beneficiaries of the results of that strategy in 2017,” the article admitted.
“In the internal anti-chavista struggle, it is Capriles who has the highest chance of taking hold [of power],” Granma predicted. “We know that, since May, he has been working on that. He is the one dealing with the outrage of furious opposition members, he is assuming the costs [of fighting], seeking a greater goal.”
Granma added that Capriles was not “naive, nor does he act alone” to usurp authority from Guaidó. “He counts on behind-the-scenes support from other anti-chavistas who do not want to openly proclaim themselves pro-dialogue … but who also understand the unpredictable results of remaining outside of the electoral arena.”
The commentary went on to claim that Guaidó was increasingly unpopular among members of the opposition who “do not want to perpetuate Guaidó’s imaginary presidency, nor much less be commandeered by Leopoldo López.”
López, the head of Guaidó’s former party, Popular Will, was once a frontrunner to run for president in the aftermath of Capriles’ failures. A political prisoner for years, López escaped house arrest in 2019 and supported Guaidó’s failed attempt to gain control of the military. Popular Will is a full member of the Socialist International.
Contrary to Granma‘s implication, Guaidó is legally the president of Venezuela. Maduro’s presidential term expired in January 2019, but, as he refused to vacate the position, the National Assembly used its constitutionally mandated powers to name an interim president: Guaidó.
The language Granma used for Capriles this week differs radically from how the Communist Party propaganda outlet treated him when he was running against Chávez in 2013.
“After failing in his attempt to provoke internal chaos in Venezuela, defeated right-wing presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski has turned his attention to the international arena,” Granma posited following Chávez’s stealing the election from Capriles. “With a well devised and advised strategy, aided by the United States, he has undertaken a campaign beyond Venezuelan borders to delegitimize the legitimate government which won the last elections.”
This week, Granma, instead, framed Capriles as a barrier, not catalyst, to an American role in Venezuela.
Contrary to the 2013 article, Capriles himself has long identified as being on the “center-left” and identified former socialist president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, as a role model. Lula was condemned to over a decade in prison for corrupt acts he committed during his tenure.
While campaigning against Chávez in 2012, Capriles stated at a rally, referring to the chavistas, “If they are socialists, I am a Marxist-Leninist.” He later went on to accuse Chávez of being insufficiently left wing.
“This government imports gasoline from the United States and says it is against imperialism,” Capriles said. “This government that claims it achieved independence imports rice from the United States.”
Some interpreted Capriles’ comment on his own ideology at the time to be sarcastic. Later in his career, in 2017, Capriles left the opposition coalition at the time, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, citing refusal to work with opposition leader Henry Ramos Allup, a vice president of the Socialist International.
On Tuesday, Capriles revealed that he had personally held talks with Turkish diplomats on the situation in Venezuela, a bizarre declaration given his lack of current employment anywhere, including the Venezuelan government.
“Talking to a member of the international community is normal when you believe in politics and democracy,” Capriles wrote on Twitter. “Let’s be clear: with the Chinese, with the Russians, with the Europeans, we will speak with everyone that is necessary to get the Venezuelans out of this crisis.”
The details of that discussion remain a mystery.
Guaidó’s administration immediately issued an outraged statement saying it had no knowledge of these talks.
“We are informing Venezuelans and the international community of our absolute lack of knowledge about talks held between the Erdogan regime and Henrique Capriles,” the administration said. “These actions were carried out without the knowledge or authorization of the interim government, the National Assembly, our international allies, or the unitary agreement reached and announced by 27 political organizations that unite our democratic forces.”
During his remarks Thursday, Capriles insisted that participating in rigged elections was necessary for democracy.
“We will not leave the people without an option, we will support women and men who want to open paths,” Capriles said. “This is not about voting or not voting. The true dilemma is to struggle or not struggle, and I have decided to struggle. I will not remain with my arms crossed.”
Capriles is not running for office in December, as Maduro banned him from doing so, despite the fact that Maduro has no legal presidential authority.
Capriles also bizarrely opposed American and international sanctions on the Maduro regime, claiming they hurt the Venezuelan people – a position not held by a large portion of both Venezuelans at home and abroad.