Caracas

The approval ratings of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro rose to 23.2% at the end of September, according to a new poll conducted by private centre-right think tank Datanalisis. 

The increase in the head of state’s popularity comes just weeks ahead of regional elections scheduled for October 15, when Venezuelans will choose their state governors for the next four years. 

Venezuela’s right-wing opposition announced on September 26 that its representatives would not attend the upcoming round of exploratory talks that were set to be held in the Dominican Republic the following day. 

The boycott came one day after a small group of masked opposition militants took to the streets of the wealthy eastern Caracas municipality of Chacao in renewed anti-government roadblocks. 

Using the Metro Cable car system built under former president Hugo Chavez, our solidarity delegation to the South American nation, organised by Venezuelanalysis.com, travelled high up into the mountain to the neighbourhood of San Agustin.

The Metro Cable system, the first of its kind in Venezuela, was inspired by a visit by Chavez to Austria where he saw dozens of chairlifts going up and down the mountains.

With the Venezuelan right-wing opposition in disarray after failing to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro through violent protest, and divided in the face of the upcoming October 15 regional elections, the frontline of the battle for Venezuela’s future has shifted outside its borders.

Travelling past El Calvario Park, just a few blocks from the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, we see a familiar image: an outline of late former president Hugo Chavez’s eyes, painted across several stairs.

This image can be seen all over Caracas. The government of President Nicholas Maduro has converted it into a recognisable trademark, much like the iconic image of Che Guevara that is splashed across T-shirts, flags and walls the world over.

“The US is doing the same thing as it did with the economic blockade on Cuba, to try and suffocate the Venezuelan economy” explained Williams Camacaro, a long-time Venezuelan grassroots activist based in New York.

Speaking to Green Left Weekly in Caracas, Camacaro said “The sanctions will cause a lot of difficulties for Venezuela”, but “the reality is that a lot of time has passed since [the blockade was first imposed on Cuba]. Many things have changed.”

Flying into Caracas, the plane was full of middle class Venezuelans travelling home from Miami. On board, no one spoke to the passenger next to them for fear of finding out they were on the opposite side of the political divide.

In highly polarised Venezuela, these things are best left unsaid.

Venezuelans were taken by surprise with the announcement that opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez would serve out his jail term under house arrest. The move is an unprecedented concession that seeks to calm the waters in the lead up to the July 30 Constituent Assembly elections. 

But the conflict in the country is showing it has multiple faces. On July 10, a day after the official election campaign began, a candidate was assassinated in the middle of a campaign event.

One National Guardsperson was killed and three people set on fire across Venezuela as violent anti-government protests continue. 

In Aragua, National Guard Sergeant Ronny Alberto Parra Araujo died on June 27 of wounds sustained during what the Public Prosecution (MP) described as an “irregular situation” the day before.

Journalist Ramon Camacho has reported that Parra was shot while attempting to prevent looting at the Walio Supermarket in Maracay on the evening on June 26.

The right-wing opposition has put its foot down on the accelerator, it is moving all of its pieces at once, and aims to shatter the balance of forces through a coup. It has made it clear: the opposition has June and July to achieve its objective.

It has declared that, backed by article 350 of the constitution, it does not recognise the government. Nor does it recognise the call for a National Constituent Assembly and it is organising to impede the elections for the assembly going ahead on July 30.

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