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The Venezuelan opposition chooses Edmundo González Urrutia as a consensus candidate

The Venezuelan opposition chooses Edmundo González Urrutia as a consensus candidate

Last Friday night, the Venezuelan opposition chose Edmundo Gonzalez Urrutia, a diplomat who was once ambassador to Argentina and Algeria, as a consensus candidate. Manuel Rosales, governor of Zulia state, wanted to be chosen, but he did not have the support of the rest of the parties that make up the unionist program. However, González Urrutia had this consensus and the direct support of María Corina Machado, the main leader of the opposition excluded by Chavismo. The diplomat resisted. Such a mission was not part of his plans, but he finally agreed, and from now on he becomes Nicolas Maduro's main competitor in the presidential elections scheduled for July 28.

Rosales also ended up giving him his support. “Good news for the people of Venezuela: the Democratic Unionist Program unanimously approved the nomination of Ambassador Edmundo González Urrutia as the unity candidate supported by all elements of the program. After a high-level and respectful debate, in which leaders such as María Corina Machado and Manuel Rosales participated. said Omar Barboza, Secretary General of the Democratic Unionist Party. Rosales, at the end of the meeting: “We have reached a result that represents a historic decision for democracy in Venezuela: we have chosen the next President of the Republic, who will be elected on July 28.”

The opposition was forced to search for alternative candidates for Maria Corina Machado, who won the primaries by more than two million votes. The forces critical of Chavismo had several fronts open to continue on the electoral path and with a unitary candidacy. At least three options were considered among the politicians who were able to run: the Rosales option, the option of Enrique Márquez who broke from the ranks of Rosales' party, and the option of González Urrutia, a temporary name that the unionist program was able to give him. Registration at the max. This is no longer the case. In other contests in the past, a lack of unity caused the opposition to lose ground, but this time it appears to have taken the path of unity. In other scenarios in which Chavismo turned elections into a risky move, the opposition chose to abstain from voting or exert internal and external pressure to accelerate the transition. This time, when 85% of the country wants political change and Maduro is at his worst, different sectors seem focused on competing even as the terrain changes.

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A few weeks ago, Machado appointed a replacement to represent her in the race. It was the 80-year-old academic Corinna Llores, a Real Madrid fan, who received the support of the parties affiliated with the unionist programme. Despite attempts to negotiate an overturn of the summarily and unconstitutionally imposed disqualification, the leader was forced to temporarily surrender her claim, name her replacement and stay in the game. But Chavismo also prevented Lloris from registering during the application round. In an extension of the deadline, the opposition was allowed to register diplomat Gonzalez Urrutia, who agreed to register temporarily, so that the Democratic Unity table card, which represents the opposition, would not be overlooked.

In addition to González Urrutia, in the long twilight of the application registration deadline, leader Enrique Márquez, former dean of the National Electoral Council, also gained access to the Electoral College's elusive electronic platform. Marquez tried to obtain the support of Presidents Gustavo Petro and Lula da Silva, and today he met with the Colombian ambassador to Caracas, Milton Rengifo. At the end of the period he also learned that he had managed to give his name to Rosales, a negotiator and moderate politician who had reconciled his cohabitation as governor of the state of Zulia with Chavismo, a former presidential candidate with current ambitions. I am optimistic, we are thinking about the future of Venezuela. “In big Venezuela,” he said before entering the long-awaited meeting with the Unitary Platform and Machado.

Having a guaranteed place on the ticket means that the opposition can move in different negotiating scenarios. Maduro and the Chavismo in power have known how to throw bait to divide the opposition, a group of parties that have clashed on several occasions in a strategy of resistance, rolling back the more authoritarian Chavismo in recent years. The meeting held this afternoon could not have been achieved without prior work to build agreements between the ten parties of the unitary programme, in which the Primero Justicia Party, the Democratic Action Party, the Popular Volunteer Party and the Nuevo Tiempo Party have greater weight. Most agreed it must be González Urrutia, but he refused for several weeks. He finally agreed to this mandate.

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As the polls move, González Urrutia will need Machado's endorsement for his political capital, which is a given. None of them alone was able to muster support to defeat Maduro. This step just taken by the opposition does not prevent Chavismo from moving another piece to disrupt the consensus reached. It is possible that González Urrutia himself could be excluded through electoral mechanisms controlled by the ruling party.

These will not be the last hours on the road to the presidential elections. The Maduro government, which sat in Barbados and signed agreements to guarantee fair elections in exchange for partial relief of oil sanctions imposed by Washington, has reversed its intentions and, contrary to commitments to maintain discourse and a climate of peace, has taken legal action against opponents and human rights activists. The sanctions relief valve was partially closed this week. The United States, which was recently able to carry out maneuvers to transfer the board of directors in Venezuela, decided not to renew the licenses through which the government was able to resume work with foreign oil companies and sell crude oil freely. But Washington has not returned to the maximum pressure position it maintained before. Companies dealing with PDVSA still have a month and a half to close operations, and the possibility of issuing specific licenses for each case has been opened. This leaves the door open for continued negotiations. All of these negotiations will almost certainly revolve around González Urrutia, Maduro's rival, for the time being. We have to wait to see what happens in the next few days.

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