Venezuela’s Maduro gains strength as Opposition splits

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(AFP) Venezuela’s Opposition appeared close to disintegration Tuesday after a key leader ditched the main coalition opposed to President Nicolas Maduro, bolstering the socialist leader ahead of elections due next year.
Henrique Capriles, a former presidential candidate, announced he was pulling out of the beleaguered Opposition coalition after four of its governors pledged allegiance to a Constituent Assembly fiercely loyal to Maduro.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro

Capriles said he would not stay in the coalition as long as another prominent figure, Henry Ramos Allup, leader of the Democratic Action Party, remained.

Four Democratic Action Party governors pledged allegiance to the Constituent Assembly, which was elected in July in polls called by the unpopular leftist Maduro that were boycotted by the opposition.

“When a person is sick, you need to operate to remove the tumor,” said Capriles, who lost to Maduro in 2013, as he called for an overhaul of the Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) coalition.

Capriles’s Justice First party appeared likely to follow him out of the coalition after a party vote.

“It’s the perfect scenario for Chavism, allowing it to press ahead with its strategy of obtaining legitimacy for the Constituent Assembly, while the opposition is unravelling,” said electoral expert Eugenio Martinez.

He was referring to the political movement launched by Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez.
The developments follow a period of soul-searching by the opposition, routed in October 15 regional elections by Maduro’s socialists who swept the vote in 18 of Venezuela’s 23 states.

Maduro had warned ahead of the polls that elected governors would have to be sworn in before the Constituent Assembly, which the Opposition has consistently refused to recognise.
The Assembly has been handed sweeping powers, including over the opposition-dominated parliament, and has been condemned internationally as a naked power grab by Maduro.

Despite the opposition saying it would not give in to government “blackmail,” four of the five Opposition governors-elect said they had decided to submit to the inevitable and take the oath before the Assembly.

Maduro met Tuesday with three of the four governors at the centre of the controversy, saying “a new era of coexistence, harmony and cooperation has started with an important sector of the opposition.”

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