The head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), Jesus Torrealba, said today that he would present a proposal to restructure the opposition bloc at an opposition demonstration planned in Caracas that day. The announcement comes after the MUD faced a mountain of criticism from opposition figures and supporters alike after it gave up a campaign of peaceful street demonstrations in order to engage with an ultimately futile dialogue with the government last fall.
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica must be restructured so that it can be more useful, more efficient, so that it can provide a better service to the country.
At the same time, Torrealba expressed his earnest desire in making the restructuring meaningful rather than simply cosmetic:
… the restructuring has to be very clear and honest. It’s not simply a casting substitution; it’s not quitate tu pa’ ponerme yo [literally, “move so I can be there; akin to, “a game of musical chairs”].
The opposition march on January 23 will likely prove to be an important weathervane for the MUD, given the growing disenchantment with the bloc after a lackluster 2016 parliamentary year and an increasingly apparent inability to mount a credible challenge to the Maduro regime.
PSUV Calls for “Happy/Combat” March on January 23
As in dozens of previous occassions, the PSUV has scheduled its own demonstration on the same date and time as an opposition one, this one targeting the MUD march in Caracas scheduled for January 23.
The announcement of the PSUV march came from PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello, who called on regime supporters to take place in the “happy” march that would nevertheless have a “combative” element to it. Cabello said:
We are asking all Venezuelan patriots, all revolutionaries, to accompany us in this march. It is a happy march because it is in recognition of a martyr [a Venezuelan guerrilla figure named Fabricio Ojeda who died in 1966]. It is a combat march because the Venezuelan right-wing must understand respect for the Constitution.
Cabello also stressed that the PSUV’s supporters would fight to defend the Bolivarian revolution “whatever the cost”, and suggested that the opposition would fail in its demands for general elections in the country. Cabello said:
We will not see general elections here, nor will President Nicolas Maduro resign, nor will he abandon his post. What we’ll see here is more revolution. I don’t know how far they [the opposition] are willing to go. We know how far we are willing to go.
Maduro Proposes Placing Thousands of Machine Guns in Slums
A video posted on Twitter yesterday shows Maduro speaking to what appear to be a mix of reporters and military and militia officials while riding on the back of some kind of motorized machine gun platform. In the video, Maduro makes a number of off-the-cuff remarks, including one in which he suggests handing over “ten or twenty thousand” of the mobile gun platforms in the country’s slums for defensive purposes.
The video was shared by journalist Leonardo Padron, and was likely recorded during the weekend’s nation-wide military drill.
Below, the video in question along with my translation:
Maduro: I grab onto it here, no?
Man off-screen: Yes.
Maduro: And the cartridges come in through here, right? We can send something like ten, twenty thousand of these to all of the barrios [the Venezuelan Spanish word for “slum”] and the fields so that we can defend Venezuelan territory, our homeland and our sovereignty. This one, along with other equipment that we’re preparing by decree so that we can get moving into the slums, the fields, everywhere. Huh? Right!
Man off-screen [to the motorcycle driver]: Go faster.
Maduro: Let me drive it!
The weapon that Maduro is handling in the video and suggests disseminating throughout the country appears to be an FN MAG, a Belgian-made machine gun.
One of the pillars of the Bolivarian revolution is the union civico-militar [civil-military union], a doctrine that calls for the erasure of the boundary between the civilian and military spheres. The doctrine has resulted in the rise of militia groups, which range from official militia organizations that are formally attached to the military to the less-formal colectivo armado [“armed collective”], which are essentially gangs of government supporters who are allowed to act with relative impunity when it comes to political persecution and protest suppression.
Caro Incommunicado for Sixth Day
El Nacional reported today that the whereabouts of detained Voluntad Popular (VP) politician Gilber Caro are unknown, and that no one – not even his next of kin or lawyers – has had any contact with him in the past six days. The news came via Theresly Malave, the head of an NGO called Justicia y Proceso Venezuela [Justice and Procedure Venezuela].
Caro was arrested last week after SEBIN agents claim to have discovered a rifle and explosives on him as part of a crackdown on opposition figures that saw a total of six politicians arrested in a matter of days.
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