One Month Until “El Final”? Caracas Chronicles’ Electoral Season Editor’s Picks

As we approach July 28th, here in Caracas Chronicles we selected ten of our articles to help you understand where Venezuela stands.

Democratic transitions can begin due to miscalculations by the main decision-makers of authoritarian regimes, Venezuelan political scientist John Magdaleno recently said in Tony’s podcast. And, for him, a series of miscalculations have been happening in Venezuela. Barclays agrees. According to a new report by the British firm, there is a “significant possibility” of a political transition in Venezuela ushered by miscalculations. First, it was the opposition primaries. Then, it was the hodgepodge that accidentally led to Edmundo González Urrutia’s candidacy. Add up Chavismo’s dull campaign and its rageful retaliation on rural Venezuelans providing services to the opposition on the campaign trail. 

Flash forward nine months after the October primaries and María Corina Machado—the “rose that is a thorn in Chávez’s side”, New York Times dixit—is rallying up ecstatic masses in old rural strongholds of Chavismo like Portuguesa, Guárico and El Vigía. On July 4th, the official campaign begins: confronting the Machado-led opposition—and its recently built-up network of volunteers, comanditos and witnesses—against Chavismo and its massive but decaying apparatus of communal councils, CLAPs, militiamen, soldiers and courts. As we approach July 28th, here in Caracas Chronicles we selected ten of our articles to help you understand where Venezuela stands. 

Can González Urrutia win the presidency? 

Edmundo González Urrutia, now endorsed by María Corina Machado, could hand the opposition a victory in July according to polls. But the road ahead is, to say the least, tricky. Tony wrote an analysis of the opposition’s possibilities and challenges.

The (long) road to El Final 

María Corina Machado’s ability to adapt has turned opposition politics on its head and has subverted the meaning of elections in Venezuela: Can she turn that movement into something more after July 28th?, Jeudiel Martínez asks in “Hasta el final: How María Corina’s Mutation Overturned Venezuelan Politics

You undercook fish? Believe it or not, jail. You overcook chicken, also jail.

Chavismo is arresting high profile activists and increasing its harassment of organized civil society, hoping to crack down on its organizational and mobilization capabilities before the presidential elections. When the repression wave began, months before affecting at least 16 establishments and leading to the detention of almost 50 people, Tony explained why the Maduro government is doing it in “Why Venezuela’s Repression Is Reaching Unnerving Levels

The bases’ rebellion

Maria Corina Machado’s massive rallies in Portuguesa—once the state with the highest per capita share of Chavista vote—shows grassroots Chavismo’s rebellion in the western Llanos: and throughout former red country, Rafael Uzcátegui writes in his piece “Machado’s Tour in Rural Portuguesa Shows Grassroots Chavismo’s Rebellion.”

Live from the rallies

A new mass event, this time including presidential candidate Edmundo González Urrutia, brings the María Corina phenomenon closer to the capital in a former Chavista stronghold. What’s happening inside the rallies? Here’s Tony’s reporting on the ground.

Guarimba fear-mongering 

But not everyone is in the Machadowagon. With a new electoral pact, Chavismo is seeking to neutralize the vote for Edmundo González from a sector of the oppositional middle class that maintains its misgivings about María Corina and rejects the street confrontations of recent years, writes Rafael Uzcátegui in his piece “The CNE Agreement: Who’s Afraid of the Guarimba?”

The new (organized) opposition

The political opposition is finally realizing that organizing people is kinda their job description, Jeudiel Martínez writes in his piece “What If Another Sort of Transition Is Happening In Venezuela?”. The comanditos –the opposition’s current strategy of promoting small self-organized electoral groups in communities to mobilize and energize voters– look promising, as grassroots politics is the essential infrastructure of any democratic struggle in any juncture. A new type of opposition strategy could be rising in this conjuncture. 

What do the polls say? 

We also spoke with pollster Felix Seijas, director of Delphos, about what the polls indicate fifty days before the elections: if Maduro is rising but Chavismo has a ceiling, can the opposition win? 

What if the U.S. does nothing…? 

But even with a majority on their side, Maria Corina Machado and her allies must prepare for scenarios where Maduro sets up uncompetitive elections and the Biden administration doesn’t fully retaliate. The White House is eyeing a working relationship with Miraflores, whoever governs beyond 2024. Cristobal Picón and Sebastián Cáceres lay the case in “Reality Check: The U.S. May Not Punish Maduro in 2024.”

So… what will happen on the 28th? 

Despite all serious polls favoring González Urrutia, the electoral playing field for July 28th remains full of obstacles that Maduro could use to its favor, even if Chavismo’s grassroots structure is considerably weaker than during the Chávez era. Can Nicolás Maduro win the elections?, Cristobal asks in his new data-driven piece.