LatinNews Daily - 13 July 2023

VENEZUELA: Opposition candidates hold first debate ahead of primary election

On 12 July eight of the 14 candidates seeking the nomination of Venezuela’s opposition coalition Plataforma Unitaria Democrática (PUD) in the 2024 presidential election held their first debate.


The PUD will hold a primary election on 22 October to select a single presidential candidate. Already, there are signs that President Nicolás Maduro’s government is undermining the process – a leading pre-candidate, María Corina Machado, became the latest to be barred from holding public office on 30 June, while the supreme court (TSJ) is also studying a request to suspend the entire primary election.

  • Eight candidates participated in the debate – former deputies Machado, Freddy Superlano, Tamara Adrián, and Delsa Solórzano, former governors Andrés Velásquez (Bolívar state, 1989-1995) and César Pérez Vivas (Táchira state, 2008-2012), and Andrés Caleca, a former president of the national electoral council (CNE, 1999).
  • All of the participants agreed on the need for a radical overhaul of the Bolivarian economic model established under former president Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), blaming Venezuela’s dire economic situation on the cronyism of Maduro’s government which they said deters investment, and on its authoritarianism which has resulted in international sanctions being levied on the oil sector. However, Machado, who is widely viewed as the most radical of the candidates, was the only one who argued for privatisations of state companies.
  • Candidates also called for the release of political prisoners, of which there are currently 286 according to the Venezuelan NGO Foro Penal.
  • However, the candidates were divided on how to respond to moves by the authorities to ban leading candidates. Solórzano argued that candidates should agree on a “line of succession”, so that a pre-agreed candidate is ready to step into the breach if the winner of the primaries is later disqualified. Machado, who has insisted she will compete in the primaries despite the ban, disagreed, saying that “we can’t play by the rules of tyranny”.

Looking Ahead: Grave concerns persist regarding possible interference by the authorities in both the 2024 election and the PUD primary. The TSJ is currently studying an appeal lodged by Luis Ratti, a self-styled opposition-aligned independent, who is requesting the suspension of the primary election on the grounds that it has been tainted by the participation of the banned candidates Machado, Superlano, and Henrique Capriles Radonski.

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