Mapping the Venezuelan Opposition’s Rallies

Our geodata maps on the primary and the presidential campaigns reveal the extent of the candidates routes, the parties' regional networks, and the magnitude of Chavista attacks

“A large part of the opposition mass started this year with low spirits, that nothing could be done now, that everything was lost, that the monster was too big to be confronted. Well, the primary changed all of this”, Félix Seijas, director of the pollster Delphos, said days before the opposition primary, “This has raised people’s spirits. They feel that a kind of hope is reborn.” A map of the candidates’ tours –which we developed with the VE360 geodata platform– could indicate one of the reasons for this mobilization: the extent of the tours of the multiple opposition pre-candidates.

According to our map “Tour of pre-candidates for the 2023 opposition primaries”, which documents localities visited by the pre-candidates and the aggressions they suffered, the pre-candidates for the presidential candidacy toured –counting every municipality visited by at least one pre-candidate– most of the 335 municipalities in the country and six of them suffered 37 attacks during the primary campaign. The map allows you to view the information in its entirety or by candidate, in addition to providing information about each point visited and each documented aggression.

In a way, the primary campaign was not a competition between candidates: but a multifront effort to revive party networks and politically mobilize Venezuelans once again. 

To create this map, we monitored each week media posts, press releases, information platforms and the social media accounts of leaders and political parties, journalists and infociudadanos, and built a database.

However, during the primary campaign, reports about the tours were not entirely accurate. A second search was often necessary to identify several of the municipalities and parishes from the available data (usually the name of the town the candidate was visiting). Only the candidates who carried out street mobilizations within the national territory and provided consistent information about their tours around the country appear on the map.

Recently, we prepared a second map –Electoral tour of opposition candidates for the 2024 presidential elections– with the tours of María Corina Machado, Edmundo González Urrutia and the other self-proclaimed opposition candidates –external to the Unitary Platform or leading unilateral parties– who were allowed to register in the Council National Electoral.

The first map not only reveals the effort that opposition politicians made to revive spirits and reunite the opposition, which became the largest bloc of political self-identification after the primary according to Delphos; it also displays the existing networks and strongholds of the different parties.

For example, the tour of Carlos Prosperi –the Acción Democrática candidate, who visited 135 municipalities: the largest number of municipalities visited by a pre-candidate during the primary campaign– reveals the vast extension of nodes that the dominant party of the pre-Chavista era still maintains in the country. In fact, his campaign – despite the final quagmire, when Prosperi turned against his party and baselessly accused the National Primary Commission (CNdP) of committing fraud – can be seen as a futile attempt to recompose AD after being split into two factions by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

Other notable tours were those of María Corina Machado, César Pérez Vivas and Henrique Capriles. The first reveals the growth of Machado’s forces especially in the Andes, but also in the central-western region and certain areas of the east. In fact, these are several of the states where key members from their regional teams were subsequently detained or persecuted: Trujillo, Lara, Yaracuy and Barinas. The tour of Pérez Vivas, the only candidate who visited Amazonas, is a peculiarity in itself: without a party of his own, the candidate visited a number of municipalities that almost rivals the amounts that Machado and Prosperi visited. Finally, Capriles’ campaign reveals the networks of Primero Justicia and its allies in Un Nuevo Tiempo: he was the candidate who visited Zulia the most after Prosperi, but his presence in the Andes, where Machado visited dozens of towns, was almost non-existent.

However, the impact of Prosperi’s tour does not appear to have been profound. The exception is Cojedes, his home state, where Machado obtained 77.35% of the vote according to data from the CNdP: her lowest percentage in the country. Machado also had particularly lower percentages than the national one, with 90% or less, in several states in which Henrique Capriles leveraged his campaign: Anzoátegui, Zulia, Nueva Esparta, Monagas, Sucre and Apure. However, here the influence of regional forces outside the Unitary Platform or opposed to Machado, such as Manuel Rosales, José Brito and Morel Rodríguez, may also weight in.

Political and gender violence on the road

Both maps also show the attacks by violent groups that candidates suffered or suffer in their efforts to tour the country: as happened to Henrique Capriles, who was attacked by Chavismo sympathizers on seven occasions, or to María Corina Machado, who had to flee from colectivos in Petare and Vargas.

In our monitoring we recorded different types of attacks: one of the most frequent was the blocking of roads and access roads. During her 2023 tour, Machado, who travels by land because she claims that national airlines have refused to sell her plane tickets since 2014, denounced eight times groups and state security forces for blocking her way. She pointed out officials from the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin).

The collected data shows that –in addition to Capriles– female candidates were the most attacked during the primary campaign. Out of 37 attacks documented in the primary campaign, 17 targeted Machado or her entourage; among them the arrest of seven people, linked to its logistics and transportation team. For her part, Delsa Solórzano reported five episodes of persecution, in two of which she managed to identify officials from SEBIN and the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM).

In a way, the primary campaign was not a competition between candidates: but a multifront effort to revive party networks and politically mobilize Venezuelans once again. 

Others who reported encounters with SEBIN officials were Andrés Velásquez, who said that the uniformed officers watched him closely as he passed through three states in the country; Freddy Superlano, who raised his voice when a police officer threatened the owner of a hotel for hosting him, and Pérez Vivas, who while passing through the state of Bolívar was intimidated by SEBIN officials who tried to prevent him from appearing at the 5 de Julio Boulevard.

The attacks against Machado and her associates have increased since the beginning of 2024. Between the primary campaign and so far in the presidential campaign, the opposition leader has reported a total of 34 attacks.

In total, during the 2023 primary campaign and so far in the 2024 presidential campaign, a total of 71 attacks were recorded. These include arrests, physical violence, use of public media to incite political violence, and closures of radio stations, venues, and hotels for providing space or services to opposition leaders. Specific attacks can be consulted on the map.

The Unitary Platform’s presidential campaign

Machado’s presidential tour for his standard-bearer Edmundo González Urrutia –marked by an epic narrative and rallying up crowds outside the main cities– also reveals the minutiae of intra-opposition politics. From the beginning of her primary campaign until the first week of June, Machado has visited all the states of the country with the exception of Delta Amacuro: the second state that voted the least for Machado, according to data from the CNdP, with “only” 82.97% of the vote. Similarly, it has maintained her emphasis on the Andean region: where Machado won 96.39% and 95.65%, above the national average, in Táchira and Mérida respectively. Machado also obtained one of her highest percentages in the primaries in Trujillo, with 93.85%.

On the other hand, in Zulia –the state with the largest number of voters in the country– Machado has only visited Maracaibo and Cabimas: her low penetration in the state may be related to the leverage that Governor Manuel Rosales and his ally Tomás Guanipa, rivals of Machado, have in the networks of Un Nuevo Tiempo and part of the local networks of Primero Justicia. In fact, Machado won 89.76% of the Zulian vote in the primary: below her national percentage. The limited presence of Machado’s tour in the state also demonstrates the intra-opposition rivalries that put into play the electoral mobilization in the state with the largest number of voters and the network of opposition table witnesses that will be necessary in Zulia on July 28th.

Diplomat Edmundo González Urrutia, presidential candidate of the Unitary Platform, had said that he would not tour the country – leaving that role to María Corina Machado. However, faced with the demands of public opinion, on May 18th he began his campaign accompanied by Machado in his hometown, La Victoria, in Aragua.

Since then, he has visited other sectors in Caracas or surrounding areas: the satellite city of Guatire, the Los Palos Grandes market in the east of the capital and a meeting with community leaders from Caracas in the El León neighborhood of El Cementerio and other nearby areas. González Urrutia has told the media that he plans to visit other sectors mainly within the capital, and is expected to go to La Vega soon.

The race outside the PUD

The rest of the nominally opposition candidates have had significantly less extensive tours than Machado. These candidates have not only repeated narratives promoted by the government, being celebrated by figures from the ruling party on occasions, but they have not received attacks like those suffered by members of the PUD. The vast majority of these candidates have not visited more than ten locations on their tours or have concentrated in areas of Caracas or a handful of regional capitals. The candidate who has visited the most locations in the country is Luis Eduardo Martínez, from the judicially-intervened version of Acción Democrática (AD): his campaign has visited 20 municipalities – significantly less than those visited by Prosperi, the non-judicialized AD candidate, in the primary campaign and much less than the at least 113 municipalities that Machado has visited since 2023.