Democracy seems like a tricky thing in Venezuela – and we’re not talking just about the government.
Even parties opposing chavismo have a difficult relationship with democracy. Alternancia en el poder? Nah. Most leaders of parties from the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) have been in office for a long time. Maybe too long.
Robert Michels, sociologist and specialist in political behavior, explained that political parties have the tendency to generate internal oligarchies that monopolize power. Cualquier parecido con la realidad no es pura coincidencia. Here is a paradox: How can parties fighting for democracy handle themselves internally in such authoritarian ways?
The obvious case is Acción Democrática’s Henry Ramos Allup.
Ramos Allup is the poster boy for the vices of la cuarta that chavismo criticizes so much. The now 74-year-old politician was deputy for Acción Democrática (AD) for the first time in 1984, 34 years ago. Jaime Lusinchi was president, Like a Virgin was taking over the radio and Rafael Vidal was winning medals in Los Angeles.
Back to 2018, Ramos Allup is, again, a deputy at the National Assembly, dreaming about becoming president of Venezuela.
During his time as Assembly speaker, he ordered the removal of all Chávez paintings from congress in a celebrated, but rather empty, move. Not a single important decision came from the legislative body during that time. Meanwhile, he remains unchallenged as Acción Democrática’s caudillo, arriving at the General Secretariat 15 years ago, but holding presidency since 2000, the year after Chávez took power for the first time. If we do some maths, Allup has been el jefe de jefes in AD for 18 years now. Formidable at eliminating internal competition.
Some opposition leaders broke apart from the establishment, but others seem glad monopolizing power inside MUD to keep, and sustain, their personal agendas.
According to former party members, several “victims” have struggled for control of AD, some in important positions now: Luis Emilio Rondón, Alfonso Marquina, Ángel Medina and a long etcétera. In fact, if we review the composition of the most important opposition parties today (Primero Justicia, Voluntad Popular and Un Nuevo Tiempo), a lot of fellas around here are former adecos. A tip for those who want a career in AD: it’s better to not mess with Henry.
Julio Borges is another familiar face in opposition circles. In Primero Justicia, there have been internal elections but Julio has managed to stay ahead as National Coordinator. He went from being a rising television star, to being PJ boss in 2000, the same year he became deputy for the first time. Elected again for the Assembly in 2016, he will remain in charge until 2021, if we still have an Assembly. That’s 17 years in charge of the yellow-&-blacks.
Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) follows the trend; born after a fight inside Acción Democrática, Manuel Rosales has been its leader since its inception in 2000. The party “hecho en Zulia” seems to work around the Rosales monarchy. UNT has carried internal elections, but Manuel holds the title of “Presidente Fundador”, at the top of the pyramid and when he was exiled, there was his queen, Eveling Trejo, who went from Zulia’s first lady to mayor. Not bad if the core of your CV is being the boss’ wife.
One of the reasons our opposition seems to be locked in a cycle of the-same-mistakes over and over again is because, through 18 years of authoritarianism, we’ve had the same faces in charge. Some of them broke apart from the establishment, but others seem glad monopolizing power inside MUD to keep, and sustain, their personal agendas (someone would say that being opposition is a way of living), and they’ll do whatever it takes to maintain the status quo.
Even if Venezuela burns in the process.