Losing Official Party Status, Voluntad Popular Staggers Toward Irrelevance

Diosdado Cabello’s multi-year crusade to render Voluntad Popular into a forgotten footnote in Venezuelan history looks maddeningly close to success.

Original art by @modográfico

Voluntad Popular’s exclusion from official political party status (and loss of ballot access) looks, at last, like the end of the Orange Dream.

It was a long time coming. Voluntad Popular has been public enemy number one for chavismo since before it became a political party. Leopoldo López’ youthful, uncompromising party was too great a threat and it’s clear that, some time ago, the decision was made to eliminate it completely as a political force. Chavismo might have reached that goal.

Leopoldo López had a famously turbulent life within the party system in Venezuela. He wore PJ’s yellow in his early days, then switched to UNT’s navy blue, to finally founding the party that, to many, represented the only group determined to face down chavismo with actual chances of making it in the long run.

Today, it just remains.

Leopoldo’s saga is well documented. The key figures behind him, like Carlos Vecchio, David Smolansky, Freddy Guevara, Lester Toledo and regional leaders like Delson Guárate and Warner Jiménez, are all in exile or in hiding. But that’s just the story of the faces we recognize.

No party has suffered the brain drain as intensely as VP. A sizeable portion of its most talented cadres have fled; the crisis hits everybody and young guns with political ambitions are no different (and their teams!). I should know, writing this from abroad.

Leopoldo López’ party was too great a threat and it’s clear that the decision was made to eliminate it completely. Chavismo might have reached that goal.

Threats to declare VP illegal have come and gone as the party surged, consolidated regional strongholds and saw them wither away with every stab chavismo took at it. Diosdado’s gang, in particular, has always been keen on eradicating those pesky orange flags from the political scene.

The latest hit might be the last. A long awaited, and necessary, coup for the dictatorship.

Just like all the torture victims of chavismo, the beatings and relentless harassment turned this “domestic terror cell” (Diosdi’s words) into a victim begging for the end.

Of course, the vacuum in its structure had to be filled and subtle power grabs came soon enough. That is how the once radical party, promoter of ousting Maduro by any peaceful means, is led today by those who resemble MUD’s most vilified figures. Since they couldn’t kill the party, they neutered it.

The lack of inner elections (postponed for two years now) has only made the crisis worse. As it has happened to other parties before VP, the lack of competition made the big fish bigger, and the minnows prone to brownnosing. Rest assured, the new risk-averse dirigentes won’t be calling inner elections any time soon.

Just like food, medicine and a decent justice system have gone missing, so have decent political figures. They’re too few and far between to rock the boat hard enough. Why risk capsizing it with the old guard still inside? Because, like chavismo, VP has desperate clings to power running through its veins. Every faction does.

But you don’t reach power with an emasculated party.