By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- The Venezuelan opposition said Monday it was going to change tactics in its fight to force the embattled administration of Nicolas Maduro to hold elections. When asked what the new tactics would be, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles responded that's part of the “surprise.”
“This is our last conventional protest, the next ones, well, those will be surprise ones,” Capriles told assembled media members during a protest march marking the 59th anniversary of the toppling of Venezuela’s last military dictatorship on January 23, 1958. "The next ones, well, those won’t be announced before hand.”
The words “stasis” and “quagmire” have been used to describe the current status-quo in Venezuela, and with good reason: the opposition is more popular than Maduro but can’t force the President to do anything it wants.
The President’s popularity is at an all-time low for any administration in Venezuelan history, hovering between 10% to 18.5%, but he can still block opposition moves through friendly courts or through even less democratic tactics.
“What we see here is a weak government, that the only thing it has going for it is the control of some institution. That’s why we need to organize ourselves better, because given the present conditions, the government can lose,” Capriles said.
The opposition (which dealt the government the biggest electoral defeat in Venezuelan history a year ago), clearly has the numbers, mobilizing with minimum efforts up to a million demonstrators in recent protests.
But all the government has to do is shut down 13 subway stations, paralyze public bus service and mobilize hundreds of police to cordon off the demonstration and it scores another perceived victory: a failed demonstration that didn’t reach its intended destination.
“When there is a march, the (police) officers come out in force, all over Venezuela,” Capriles said, adding that such resources should be used to fight crime instead. Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the planet.POLITICAL TRANSPORTATION
All of that happened Monday: the opposition came out in numbers, no official tally yet, but thousands in all 23 Venezuelan states.
In Caracas however, in what has become the government’s routine response, all of the subway stations alongside the published demonstration route were closed.
Metro de Caracas, the state-owned subway company, said it was doing so to protect its employees and facilities.
It must be noted that when the government of Maduro calls for a demonstration, the subway not only keeps on running, but it does so free of charge. “Demonstrators” in government events are usually civil servants (Venezuela has three million of those), on the government payroll, ferried in official vehicles from state oil company PDVSA and other state concerns.