An Opposition That Outsourced Its Duties

The prisoner exchange between the Maduro regime and the Biden administration revealed the extent to which the political forces that are supposed to handle Venezuelans’ interests handed that job over to Washington

Of all the mistakes of the Venezuelan opposition, which are many, the most serious has undoubtedly been transferring the representation of Venezuelans’ interests to an amoral government that had no problem with trafficking with our tragedy.”

I started a Twitter rant to vent my frustration about the lack of political direction affecting Venezuelans, especially those at home. It made me think about our broken polity, including those abroad, because the divisions have also grown within the diaspora.

The dissatisfaction with the performance of the different variations of the opposition, from the Coordinadora Democrática to the MUD, has been increasing over the years, as has the disconnection with the people. Polling shows a profound political orphanage that often translates into hopelessness and political disaffection.

There have been moments of hope, especially after the 2007 constitutional referendum and the 2010 and 2015 legislative elections. But the erratic collective behavior of the opposition has created a toxic environment, dampening any outcome that can be added to the short list of triumphs.

A frequent criticism of this assessment is that we’re being too harsh on the opposition when they’re the victims, and this is probably part of the detachment we see mainly on the opposition’s side. There’s no denying that the Venezuelan opposition (I’m referring to it as one, even though I understand there are several factions) has faced a violent and corrupt regime that has no limits when it comes to suppressing political dissent.

However, the real victims here, Venezuelans, face an abusive and violent regime on one side, while on the other, a dysfunctional opposition thinks it’s the only one in need of support. The Venezuelan people feel abandoned, and rightly so. Opposition politicians are immersed in a constant feud against each other, without a clear path forward or a political plan. Their alliance is nowhere to be seen, and the promises made were based on dubious commitments that no one assumes now.

The prisoner swap between the Biden administration and the Maduro regime, seven U.S. citizens in exchange for Maduro’s wife’s convicted nephews, has deepened the despair among Venezuelans. Recriminations against the opposition are less since harsh words changed targets.

The Biden administration is being criticized for doing what any government would do to protect its citizens abroad, and the reaction is coming not only from regular Venezuelans, who probably don’t understand why Republicans (with obvious exceptions like Senator Marco Rubio) are celebrating the release of these hostages, or Republicans’ favorite network is praising President Biden for the operation. It’s also coming from the leaders of the caretaker government, who, unlike average Venezuelans, have a much better understanding of U.S. domestic policy. 

The absurdity of criticizing Biden adds to the perception held by many that representation isn’t the opposition’s job anymore.

Instead of having a seat at the table in the talks, the demands are directed at the current administration in the U.S., signaling the irrelevance of the opposition abroad, while they act as stakeholders and not as being responsible for representing the people.

There’s a chorus of journalists and pseudo influencers and political leaders accusing the Biden government of being ‘weak’ while carefully avoiding mentioning the opposition’s failure. An opposition that decided to outsource Venezuelans’ representation to an anti-democratic foreign leader, Donald Trump, as the best way to bring back democracy in Venezuela now claims unfairness and plays the victim card.

This was a terrible deal from the beginning. Not only because it led to false expectations, but it also fed the conviction that the opposition wasn’t fit for the job. How can this or any opposition earn the trust of Venezuelans when they are incapable of getting their act together and exercising the effective representation of the people they pretend to speak for? How much more will they continue to play the shadow government? Who will respond after another corruption scandal?

This isn’t a pile-on operation. Venezuelans deserve to have the opportunity to throw their support behind people willing to represent them, at home and abroad. It’s exhausting to see the diminishing of political options while the country is begging for its leadership to exercise it.