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Lack of leadership, the dilemma

Although opposition leaders repeat that they are "united," they reveal with their actions major distance
Photo: Jorge Serratos/EL UNIVERSAL
15/07/2017
17:11
Mexico
Guadalupe Galván
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Venezuela is looking for a leader. There is neither in the government nor in the opposition and Venezuelans look left and right without knowing what course to take.

Charisma is not inherited, and invoking Hugo Chávez is no longer enough for President Nicolás Maduro, whose popularity, according to the poll released in March by Datanálisis, is less than 20%. "Chávez had a connection with the history of Venezuela, with its people, with its present and its future. The connection [of the people] with [Liberator Simón Bolívar] was strengthened by Chavez," sociologist Maryclen Stelling said in the program José Vicente Hoy, a year after the death of the "commander."

"A strong man in a crisis needs charisma. And Nicolás Maduro does not have any," said The Economist in an article published in September 2016.

Chávez had the advantage of good oil prices. He also turned to social programs to gain the loyalty of the poorest Venezuelan sectors. Maduro has maintained these programs; however, he is living through the era of low prices concerning oil. Today, many Chavistas have become critical of Maduro and his small group, called "Madurism," which the analyst Gisela Kozak Rovero has described in various media as "Chavism without people."

"The political crisis is due to the lack of leadership, which has existed for many years now," Bolivarian general Jacinto Pérez Arcay, considered a mentor to Chávez. The president, he accused, "weakens the thinking of Hugo Chávez."

The problem is not just Maduro. Between the ruling party, there is no figure with enough popularity or leadership to replace him. For example, there is the controversial deputy Diosdado Cabello, who faces a series of accusations in the United States related to drug trafficking.

On the opposition side, the division has prevented the emergence of unified leadership. It is not only the opinion of analysts but also of the majority of Venezuelans (72%) who, according to a data poll released last February, expressed concern about the "leadership absence."

"That feeling is dangerous because it is accompanied by a disregard for politics," warned Luis Maturén, general manager of the pollster. That anti-politics sentiment is revealed in the opinions of Venezuelans to whom both the referendum and the Constituent Assembly are indifferent because they consider that nothing will change.

The opposition has had at least two opportunities to show unity. The first one, after the elections of December of 2015 in which the Venezuelans gave a vote of confidence to it, along with the control of the National Assembly (Parliament).

The second opportunity came when the most visible figure of the opposition, Leopoldo López, was sent home on July 8 after being sentenced to almost 14 years in prison. However, apart from some messages via Twitter, there were no signs of unity on the part of other leaders, who, although they repeat that are "united," they reveal with their actions an important fracture.

As the political analyst Rafael Céspedes pointed out last year at a conference in Carabobo, "the people are fed up with the fighting."

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