4 January 2017 - 08:00 PM
Venezuela Opposition Year 1: What Have You Done For Us Lately?
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Short answer? Not much.

Henry Ramos Allup, leader of the Venezuelan opposition during a news conference in Caracas.

Continue reading for the long answer.

On Dec. 6, 2015, the Venezuelan opposition coalition won control of the National Assembly. With the country mired in economic challenges, many voters who had previously supported the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela chose to stay home.

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In that election, votes for the Democratic Unity Roundtable increased by 4.8 percent over results for the 2013 presidential election; whereas votes for the socialists dropped by nearly 2 million compared to votes in 2013.

Like the recent U.S. presidential election, it wasn't that the people actually turned out en masse to vote for the right-wing party, but rather high abstention handed victory to the right.

But the leadership of the MUD chose to deliberately misinterpret these results, believing themselves to be the new political majority in the country, they shirked their duties and instead of legislating, they conspired to oust the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

In fact, the head of the National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup, actually claimed he had a mandate to oust Maduro and promised the opposition would install a new government within six months.

They failed. And wasted a lot of time on the effort.

First, they tried to retroactively shorten the president's term. It was, of course, ruled unconstitutional, as it would have gone against the will of voters who elected Maduro to serve a six-year term.

Then they tried the use the mechanism in the constitution to recall Maduro but took so long to start the process that they rushed to collect signatures during the first phase. That proved to be a critical mistake as the pressure led them to collect a high number of fraudulent signatures, which then led to the suspension of the entire process.

In the meantime, they did very little actual legislating, often failing to even show up to work.

Hector Rodriguez, the head of the socialist bloc in the assembly, regularly denounced the consistent lack of quorum due to absenteeism by the opposition members of congress.

When the opposition did manage to make it into work and the business of lawmaking could actually take place, the MUD would implement legislation that ran afoul of the constitution.

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One of their first pieces of legislation was an effort to release a number of convicted criminals through a so-called amnesty law. This was one of a few concrete promises they actually made during the campaign ahead of the parliamentary elections.

Promoted as an effort at reconciliation, the bill was actually yet another example of their political games.

The bill sought to free approximately 115 incarcerated criminals, including some who participated in the coup against President Chavez in 2002, as well as many of those that both organized and participated in violent protests that left dozens dead.

Unsurprisingly, this bill was ruled unconstitutional.

A bill to privatize the more than one million units of housing built by the socialist government was similarly ruled unconstitutional.

This conflict between the Supreme Court and the opposition-controlled National Assembly was a regular feature in Venezuelan politics this past year. In fact, for much of the year, the intransigence of the assembly's leadership made it so none of the decisions and actions of the congress were legitimate.

The right-wing leadership insisted on swearing-in and seating three lawmakers, despite the fact the Supreme Court had ruled against recognizing their election due to serious fraud allegations.

That issue was resolved just a month ago in November as a result of ongoing negotiations between the government and the opposition.

Only now, after exhausting their political capital and wasting the public's time, did the opposition finally agree to participate in a dialogue with the government.

Only now, a year after their election victory is the opposition beginning to finally understand that it is merely one branch of power.

Hopes are high that the dialogue will produce results and Venezuela's economic challenges will be addressed by all political actors.

Make no mistake, however, the raison d'être of the opposition coalition continues to be their quest for power and the abolition of all things socialist.

Political and economic forces opposed to the Maduro government continue to engage in an economic war against the government.

There are also members of the opposition coalition who have steadfastly refused to take part in the dialogue with the government, with some continuing to issue not-so-subtle threats of violent protest and even calls for a military coup. However, the ongoing talks have also served to marginalize these elements of the opposition.

The opposition is sure to continue to pursue its aim of ousting the government but the scenario is radically different than it was only a year ago and the socialist forces have regained the advantage thanks to the Chavista spirit that still lives in many sectors of the country and the ineptitude of the opposition.

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