Jesus Torrealba, the head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, assured supporters today that candidates for the upcoming primaries – the winners of which will run in this year’s parliamentary elections – “will not be hand-picked”. Torrealba said that the primary process will ensure that democratic principles are upheld, and that in districts were no primary can take place (where, for example, MUD candidates run unopposed), candidates will be picked “by consensus”. Torrealba explained:

In all of the places where there are no primaries, candidates will also be selected through legitimate and democratic mechanisms, as is consensus, which implies a certain level of [democratic] participation.

Primary elections narrow the list of possible candidates through in-party elections so that a single candidate is able to run for the party in an upcoming election. For example, if seven people wish to become the opposition National Assembly candidate for X district, the primary will select one. That one person will then run for the MUD in this year’s parliamentary elections for X district.

Consensus elections, or consensus democracy, does not rely on elections to select a candidate; rather, it takes into account a broad set of opinions from members of a community to achieve that goal.

Torrealba’s determination to carry out the most democratic process possible as the country readies for parliamentary election has apparently upset some opposition candidates, as he made the following comment:

There are two valid and democratic mechanisms: Consensus and primaries. Within this context, however, some people have reacted [in a way that] I would understand [if they happened] in a normal country, in a normal democracy. But, in a country with a crisis as profound as the one we’re living, planchitis and candidaturitis are a luxury the opposition cannot afford.

Representatives from the MUD also met with the People’s Defender, Tareck William Saab, to discuss the issue of political prisoners in the country, the first time the two groups have done so.

Spanish Ex-PM to Represent Lopez, Ledezma

Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez will head the legal defense teams of Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma. Both men are being held in the Ramo Verde military prison near Caracas, and stand accused of working to overthrow the Maduro government in one way or another.

Gonzalez, who was the head of the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party from 1974 to 1997, and Prime Minister from 1982 to 1986, has agreed to take on the responsibility of representing the men at the request of their respective families.

The Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, spoke on the news today, saying:

Defending freedom, human rights and the rule of law is a very dignified task, and one that brings honour to Felipe Gonzalez, with whom I’ve always had a splendid relationship.

Miguel Otero Speaks on Press Freedom

The head of the daily newspaper El Nacional, Miguel Otero, gave an interview to the Colombian newspaper El Heraldo, and spoke on the state of press freedom in Venezuela.

During the interview, Otero said that the freedom of the press is in dire straits in Venezuela. Otero explained:

I’ve been threatened. They don’t give us [access to foreign currency] to buy paper, and we’ve survived thanks to international solidarity.

Otero also argued that the government has instituted what amounts to a system to stifle the free press:

How do they do it? They buy media outlets, the regulate auto-censorship, and persecute journalists. There are only corners left in Venezuela, small spaces for freedom of expression.

When asked if he had an idea regarding what Maduro might use his practically unlimited powers granted to him by the Ley Habilitante approved last week, Otero said:

I don’t even think he knows what he’s going to use it for. He’s had all the power since the first day he came into office. He’s got all of the public powers kidnapped, and he doesn’t have any institutional opposition. I don’t know why he needs an habilitante [law].

Capriles Responds to Call to Defence

Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles responded to increased calls for all Venezuelans to assume responsibility for the defense of the country by arguing that Maduro is responsible for violence in the country. Through Twitter, Capriles said:

The national government asks us to provide security? Someone wake up Nicolas Maduro, he’s primarily responsible for the violence in the country.

Maduro: Global Union Will Defeat U.S. Aggression

Maduro continued to focus his attention on the sanctions the U.S. placed on seven Venezuelan officials last week. Through Twitter, Maduro said:

The union of patriots who love our Bolivarian Venezuela, and the support of the peoples of the world, we will win a great peace victory.

He also thanked the people – both in Venezuela and abroad – who have voiced their support for the country in the face of the U.S. gestures:

Thanks to everyone for your conscientious response. In the face of the empire’s threat against our country, let us continue to defend Venezuela with strength. In the face of threats, the truth; in the face of lies, the truth; in the face of manipulation, the truth. Our weapons is our homeland’s truth.

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