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The Mesa de Unidad Democratica [MUD], the country’s largest opposition bloc, chose its new leader today: Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba. The group’s last leader, Ramon Aveledo, resigned back on July 30.

Torrealba is a seasoned journalist and community organizer. In 2012, he started a blog called El Radar de los Barrios [roughly, “The Radar of the Slums”], based on an organization that works with marginalized communities. He is known for providing an anti-government voice from a demographic that is erroneously believed to be wholly supportive of the PSUV: the Venezuelan poor.

After accepting the leadership post today, Torrealba spoke to the media:

I am convinced that those of us who make up the democratic alternative know that 54% of Venezuelans live in barrios populares [slums] like Caricuao, 23 de Enero, Pinto Salinas, Simon Rodriguez, etc.

Torrealba also said that he was accepting the post in the name of all the families of the victims of crime, those who suffer as a result of the health crisis, and those whose jobs are at risk – or have been lost – due to the mismanagement of the economy. He accepted the post enthusiastically, saying:

Yes, we’re moving forward of course. We’re going to build more democracy, we’re going to face this totalitarian regime. The big news today is that the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica is hitting the streets.

Perhaps most importantly, Torrealba announced that the opposition is planning a massive demonstration on October 4, and that they are working on a national mobilization plan. He also reiterated the opposition’s – and his own personal – strict adherence to democratic principles:

We have to remember that the objective of the MUD is to achieve a constitutional change in government. The strategy is to construct an ample majority to achieve political change through which we can govern. This is the only way that this servant, the son of Mrs. Maria from Caricuao, from the Magallanes de Catia, will take.

Below, a picture of Torrealba speaking today at the event announcing his appointment:

Proceedings Against Maduro Inch Forward

A complaint filed by 300 deputies and senators from various Latin American countries and Spain before the Alianza Parlamentaria Democratica de America [Democratic Parliamentary Alliance of America] against Maduro inched forward today, after the International Criminal Court began the process of studying the claim today.

The complaint alleges that the Maduro government has violated human rights on a number of occassions throughout 2014.

Even if true, the news does not mean that a case is sure to proceed against Maduro before the International Criminal Court. Rather, the process that is apparently underway right now will merely decide if there is indeed grounds for a claim to be made, and if such a claim falls within the court’s jurisdiction.

Protesters Asking for Homes Block Highway

The highway linking the cities of Valencia and Puerto Cabello was blocked by protesters today, who demanded that the government finish construction on homes they were promised two years ago.

Local residents said that construction of their subsidized homes has been halted for the last two years due to a lack of resources. The neighbourhood, called Colinas Socialista de Girardot, contains 185 unfinished homes. Protesters also stressed that while they have repeatedly contacted the government asking for updates on their situation, they have not received any kind of reply.

Protesters have been blocking the highway since 8:00 AM today, and vowed to remain at the scene until Minister of Homes Ricardo Molina personally meets with them.

Opinion

Torrealba’s appointment as the new head of the Venezuelan opposition appears to be a step in the right direction for at least two reasons.

First, “Chuo” has worked tirelessly for decades to advance the needs of the Venezuelan poor. In 1996, he created El Radar de los Barrios, an organization that works closely with people living in slums to improve their quality of life. The issue is one close to Torrealba’s heart: he was born and raised in the Magallanes de Catia barrio of Caracas. Chuo’s parents were union members, and he was a member of the Partido Comunista de Venezuela until 1974. Torrealba’s commitment to help Venezuela’s marginalized communities is impressive, and having him at the helm of the opposition bodes well for the poorest of the poor.

Second, the appointment of such a staunch supporter of the poor means that the PSUV cannot continue to claim that it has a monopoly on helping marginalized Venezuelans. I’ve argued before that the crises of scarcity, inflation and insecurity – created mostly by poor stewardship – affect the poor the most, and that therefore the PSUV cannot claim to be truly looking out for the interests of poor Venezuelans. Yet, it is a claim that the party often makes, and one that is sadly repeated outside of the country and held as common knowledge.

With Torrealba at the helm of the MUD, I hope not only that political attention on both sides of the isle will focus on those who need it the most, but that one of the PSUV’s most powerful rhetorical tools will begin to be dismantled.

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