Venezuela: Progressive Former Chávez Ally Runs for President Against Maduro

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos
FRANCES MARTEL

Henri Falcón—a former governor, Hugo Chávez supporter, and the leader of the “Progressive Advance” party—has announced his candidacy in the illegitimate Venezuelan presidential election scheduled for April 22.

Falcón joins fringe candidates from the Venezuelan Communist Party, the leftist Popular Venezuelan Union (UPV) party, and Fatherland for All (PPT), the leftist party Falcón was once a member of before establishing his own organization. All center-right and right-wing parties have vowed to boycott the election, citing the illegitimacy of the socialist-controlled body that ordered the election.

The Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a coalition of opposition parties, announced that they would boycott the election after the Venezuelan Supreme Court banned them from participating, ruling that any MUD candidate must run with their individual party, not the umbrella MUD network.

The MUD expelled Falcón after he announced his presidential run. The Movement for Socialism (MAS) and the COPEI (Social Christian Party) have lent their support to the candidate, however.

In announcing his run, Falcón argued that it was necessary for Venezuelan opposition members to participate in the election because Maduro had “promised Venezuelans paradise, but given them hell.” He offered to stand “on behalf of millions of Venezuelans who want to live in dignity” and offer “a government of national unity … that can save us from the misery to which this incompetent government has taken us.”

On Twitter, the former Lara governor argued, “We must take on and win this election because the people do not hand themselves over, do not surrender, the people battle, suffer, and stand upon the base of truth in their conscience and the scheme of life articulated with others to unite in one mission: saving Venezuela!”

The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional notes that Falcón had previously criticized Maduro for calling an election so soon, making it impossible for parties to hold primaries. The newspaper claims Falcón is fighting behind the scenes to push the election date back to May.

Maduro is so unpopular, Voice of America notes, that a poll conducted in early February shows Falcón would beat Maduro 53 to 47 percent.

Like many members of the “opposition” MUD coalition, Falcón is a longtime socialist. He was once one of Hugo Chávez’s most prominent supporters before abandoning the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in 2010. In an open letter published that year, Falcón complained of “bureaucracy, an absence of discussion, clientelism, factionalism and a badly understood concept of loyalty” within the PSUV. Chávez loyalists called him a traitor as he defected to PPT, which ultimately failed in offering the “socialism light” platform that Venezuela’s political market continues to be oversaturated with, evidenced by the number of politicians in the MUD whose parties are members of the Socialist International. PPT eventually joined the MUD coalition against Maduro.

Whispers of a Falcón presidential campaign have been surfacing in Venezuelan media since 2014.

“Henri Falcón’s final goal is power,” political observer Miguel Mirabal said in an interview that year. “Creating a progressive ideology is no coincidence, neither is creating an organization to his preferences … Henri Falcón’s political path does not end in a governorship or, even worse, the National Assembly.” Mirabal suggested that the MUD “did not look favorably” upon Falcón ambitions four years ago.

As noted above, the MUD coalition announced a “boycott” of the presidential election after the dictatorship banned them from participating. Despite the humiliation the group suffered during last year’s legislative elections—in which the regime banned most of its candidates and, evidence suggests, engaged in vote tampering and illegal tactics to suppress opposition turnout—and the fact that they are not welcome in this round of voting, MUD leaders announced a list of demands on Wednesday for their participation.

On the list of demands are: pushing the date of the election forward to allow a primary; the restructuring of the socialist-controlled National Electoral Commission (CNE); an end to Maduro’s use of state-owned media for campaigning; the reversal of a ban on the MUD participating in the election.

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