For the people of El Limón, Delson Guárate once represented hope. His election as mayor of this suburban zone in the mountains north of Maracay shook Aragua state’s politics in 2014. Three years later, Guárate is reported in Miami, seeking asylum after a stint as political prisoner.

“El Limón used to be a beautiful place, then when Belkis Porte became mayor, it turned more into Maracay” Carlos, an engineer in his 20s, tells me. Now living in Chile, he spent all his life in that community of over 100,000 wildly different people. Its long, hilly streets and alleys of old upper-class houses live side-by-side with self-built ranchos.

A tough area to rule, but the amicable and energetic Guárate wasn’t your common candidate either. The youngest of 14 children from a poor mother, he rose quickly as city councilman (at 20), later working with Voluntad Popular in Chacao under Leopoldo López and Emilio Graterón.

Pitted against him was general Víctor Flores Urbina, described by Carlos as “your average chavista thug.” Flores Urbina had all the support and resources that the PSUV could afford, including a post as municipal coordinator for Misión Vivienda.

It was an uphill battle, but also a prime example of how chavismo could be defeated in the polls.

Carlos’ perspective about Guárate, though, is less than idealistic. “He just promised things he knew he couldn’t do. Gyms, free Wi-Fi, never discussing finance.”

He forgot about a lot of people once he got elected. What’s the point of voting if you end up with the same guy in different outfits?

“When we worked in his campaign, we didn’t do it to get any favors. We just wanted the best for our community,” Teresa tells me, sitting on her porch with a cafecito. For over 50 years she has lived in El Limón, the place where she raised her children and now, pushing 80, she still runs a small business there.

Perpetually active in politics, her disappointment with Delson was there from day one. For her, it’s like the new mayor was more interested in parties and public appearances than working. “He forgot about a lot of people once he got elected. What’s the point of voting if you end up with the same guy in different outfits?”

Meanwhile, Flores Urbina, with backing from Maracay Mayor Pedro Bastidas and Governor Tareck El-Aissami, was heading the municipality’s “Institute of Autonomous Development” — the parallel local government chavismo created after his mayoral defeat.

With the support of the City Council and grassroots organizations like Frente Francisco de Miranda, he went to war against Delson. From refusing him the use of garbage trucks, causing mountains of waste on the streets, to municipal building raids, chavismo acted through Flores as it always does each time it loses an election.

Some say Guárate was way over his head, but for Teresa, the issue was deeper. “His family worked in construction and he had a hand in some shady land acquisitions.”

In a story retold by locals again and again, but so far unverified, Guárate was seen in a well-known café discussing the use of protected land in the national park for housing construction, something he had protested in the past.

It was his undoing. The SEBIN arrested him, and the Public Ministry indicted both him and his predecessor, Belkis Porte, for crimes against the environment.

His preliminary court hearing was suspended at least ten times and charges about weapons possession were never substantiated.

But while Porte went off the radar, an anonymous employee of the Public Ministry recalls how Flores Urbina, now commanding ZODI Aragua, set up a stage in front of the Public Ministry blasting off llanero music and insults to Guárate.

From then on, Delson became a political prisoner. His preliminary court hearing was suspended at least ten times and charges about weapons possession were never substantiated. The City Council named PSUV’s Brullerby Suárez as acting mayor, he later arrested by the CICPC on looting charges.

Detained in El Helicoide while suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure, Guárate’s health worsened. He was sent to the Military Hospital in Caracas, from where he tried to run both as governor for Aragua and mayor of his old seat. He was finally released on parole November 2017, and promptly made a dash for the Colombian border before seeking points north. 

“I’m a Venezuelan whose only crime has been winning elections” Delson once claimed. Does chavismo need any other excuse?

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Freelance journalist, speculative fiction writer, college professor, political junkie, lover of books and movies and, semi-professional dilettante. José has written for NPR's Latino USA, Americas Quarterly, Into and ViceVersa Magazine.


  1. Its a telling story about not only how the regime sabotages every elected oppo official using every dirty trick in the book until it takes him down but also about how in a democracy the pressure is on every candidate to gain votes by making extravagant irresponsible promises it cant keep and of how vulnerable an electorate is to voting for someone who they really dont know except for the good things he says about himself and who once elected to a position does things that dissapoint every one …..!! also how the crude nature of political infighting makes every one vulnerable to accusations that destroy reputations sometimes using flimsy but attention getting accusations of wrong doing !! We need democracy to be able to change govts that dissapoint us or prevent them from abusing their powers but at the same time there is an inherent flaw in the temptations it creates to lie and decieve and abuse the public trust ……!! We all complain about it but then always hold on to the illusion that these excesses of democracy are the exception , something that democracy itsef can remedy , that the normal standard is for people chosen thru popular jvotes to do a fine or at least half decent job , ignoring that from long practical experience thats almost never the case ..!! Is there no way of improving democracy so that these inherent practical shortcomings are minimized or prevented ……., we underarnd that democracy is adversarial in characte but can we make it perhaps less adversarial , more capable of allowing different politica parties or figures to behave fairly and work together for the common interest….??

  2. Clearly, the opposition working within the corrupt system isn’t working, even if you are corrupt yourself.

    I asked before and I ask again: What are Venezuelans waiting for?

  3. Delson Guarate.. Typical Under-educated, Criollo Vivito, highly Corruptible weasel. It’s because of millions and more millions of average people like him, or even worse, that Kleptozuela is where it is. Not just because of a few hundred Chavista leaders and a few dozen Mega-Thieves. No. It’s Millions of common, Muddy filth like this lamentable scoundrel that make up today’s Cubazuela or Kleptozuela, as you prefer. Both exact epithets happen to rhyme with Cazuela de Guisos, at all levels, everywhere: El Limon or where ever, from the Gobernadores to the Alcaldes to their entire staffs, to the sindicaleros down to the average corruptible workers who elect them, hoping for their piece of Pernil Portugues, bien guisadito, pol favol.

  4. Is it possible that those folks wanted to get elected amid such undemocratic circumstances and knowing that they wouldn’t be able to do much, given the terrible economic scenario and Chavismo’s persecution, just to have a good case when seeking the green card at the Miami Airport, as an oppositionist mayor escaping the claws of Chavismo evokes everyone’s automatic sympathy?

    It’s very hard to me to think that people can be this dumb/naive that they actually had believed that they would be able to govern anything under a dictatorship like the Venezuelan! I prefer to think that people like Delson was very bold rather than very stupid!

    • Interesting ideas Marc, and the more I think about it, the more i’m convinced you’re on to something.

      I think back now to Warner Jiménez, the opposition candidate elected mayor of Maturin. Step-daughter No. 1 worked for his campaign and when I heard after a year of so in office that he was under investigation for corruption and had fled the country, I asked her if it was all a set-up just to undo what the electorate had done. She responded, “no, there was plenty there to get him in trouble”.

      Even an opposition mayor under the thumb of chavismo, still has plenty of opportunities to enrich himself at the public feed trough. Steal enough money quickly enough, get it safely out of the country, then when the storm clouds gather, head for Miami and enjoy what you’d stolen before you got out.

      Yeah, that could be a plan that would work for many opposition candidates.

      BTW, watching Godgiven Hair tonight and I must say his program does not have the normal upbeat theme for which he’s famous. Perhaps it’s just this one program, or perhaps I’m not reading things correctly, but it sure seems to me like the focus tonight is “we may be fucked up here in Venezuela, but look at how fucked up the rest of the world is today”.

  5. China , India , Corea , Taiwan are leading the world in the fantastic rate of their economic growth and in improving the life of great masses of their population , the result of policies that promoted market models of economic activity and yet ..during this growth period were they able to totally avoid business and govt corruption ?? the answer is no , they have always had corruption marr the machinery of their economic and political activity , now china is attempting to exercise more control over corruption , to keep it in check rather than to attempt to totally erradicate it ,a task they know to be useless ..this tells us something : that it is not corruption per se that hinders having a healthy growing economy but the huge level of corruption which an inept ideologically delusional regime tolerates or promotes for the sake of its own perpetuation in power. and of course the gross incompetence of the regime in handling the countries economy .

    If we could only go back to the comparatively timid levels of corruption that existed in our pre chavez past , iff we could only turn back the destructive effect of the stupid govt policies and rampant Chavista rapacity that destroyed our economic capacity and ruined our country making us the paupers of the hemisphere !!

    Yes corruption has done much to help ruin our country but we must always keep to the fore of our minds that it is the humongous growth of corruption in the chavez years plus the stupid policies and mismanagement of the countrys resources by the regime that are the principal agents of Venezuelas destruction and the brutal pauperization that now afflicts our lives. !!

    Trying to spread the guilt of our current ills to the generalized corruption of the whole of Venezuelan society , with emphasis on the unproven and often imaginary corruption of oppo figures is a way of distracting attention from the really crucial factor of the regime being the main promoter of the increase of that corruption and in bearing thru its incompetence and devastating rapacity the main blame in causing the ruin of this once happy country !! ,

    • Mr. Bass, I have always read your comments with a mix of admiration and healthy envy for your weighted and articulated comments. I confess that I may not dare to reach the heights of your craft.

      With that in mind, I certainly disagree in your, perhaps new for me, approach on the issue of corruption, particularly within the MUD. One point I want to make is around the “proof” of corruption. Well, it is hard to proof things when there are not mechanisms for getting that proof. Unfortunately, our MUD has not set the example into assessing itself or better said purge itself after the vast loses of 2017 both human and political. Now, that is certainly “not politically correct” because there may be a lot of dirt somewhere around the people recently allowed to be elected as governor and mayor but the fact that +140 people gave up their life so those persons could have made a deal with the government is detestable.

      The circumstantial evidence is there for everyone to see that there were dealings underneath the table between the Gov. and the MUD. Not seeing that is not the sin but to continue with the pragmatism it is. Because we Venezuelans have confronted corruption with pragmatism and not with punishment. Thus, as long we continue to put the other chick, as long we pass the page and move to the next thing without an exemplary punishment that is commensurate with the real damage that corruption causes; we may just continue to deal with the Maduro thugs on the same level rather than the higher moral ground.

      Hence, my keyboard warrior job is to remind anyone, and particularly the potential future leaders of my country, that corruption among many other things was one of the principal causes of the advent of chavismo. Thus, you can not just set it aside as a idiosyncratic or cultural issue that can be dealt down the road or it is acceptable just because shedding light on it makes us vulnerable.

    • Bill, many years ago as I was expanding my company into countries like Venezuela, I worked with an excellent consultant who had experience with start-ups all over the world.

      When we had a conversation one day about corruption and how it might impact my personal business operations in a country like this one, he said, “there aren’t enough hours in the day for you to monitor every detail of every operation. Set your profit goals and if your in-country managers can meet them, then don’t worry about whatever falls through the cracks”.

      That worked well for a while. I think we both though underestimated the greed factor.

      • I’m assuming that pithy piece of wisdom preceded his excellent advice on oversight responsibilities under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

        • To be precise, in the conversation I mentioned above, he and I were talking about my managers stealing from me, not my company and I stealing from the country in which I was operating, but yes, from the beginning the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was also on the list of risks of doing business internationally.

          Hope that eases your mind.

  6. Two separate questions: 1. How to go from Dysfunctional Democracy to a stable working Democracy
    2. How to keep a stable working Democracy from slipping back!


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