This weekend, demonstrators will be taking to the streets of Venezuela and Miami, calling for the release of political prisoners, an end to censorship and for the authorities to set a date for legislative elections. The protests, called for in a jailhouse video by politician Leopoldo López, have also become the latest test for an opposition that’s been struggling to maintain a common front ahead of the critical congressional vote. In the brief video, initially released by state-run television, López announced he was going on a hunger strike, and called for a “massive and peaceful” demonstration.
Rather than a rallying cry for the opposition, however, López’s call to action seemed to just generate infighting. In a statement, the coalition of 29 opposition parties known as the MUD chastised López’s Voluntad Popular party for not coordinating the activity with the rest of the alliance, saying that it couldn’t endorse the protest since some members had concerns about the march that couldn’t get resolved by the fixed date. This didn’t go over well, however, with the MUD being swamped with accusations that it turned its back on political prisoners. The protests will be extending to Miami, where 15 different organizations, including “Politically Persecuted Venezuelans in Exile”, or “Veppex”. The backlash from MUD’s statement has led to the party’s Secretary General Jesús Torrealba to defend the organization’s position, saying that the opposition needs to act in unison if it ever hopes to regain power.
Just a few weeks ago, the spirit of unity in the Venezuelan opposition was strong after MUD held primaried to find consensus candidates for the legislative race. While a date for the upcoming congressional election has yet to be set, the opposition is hoping to make gains. These gains are coming as the country reels from various issues, including food shortages, soaring inflation and rampant crime. While Venezuela hasn’t released any inflation data this year, the Bank of America said that its in-house calculations suggest that year-to-year inflation broke the three-digit mark in April after it hit 101 percent. The calls for a street demonstration have temporarily shifted the conversation away from the nosediving economy for at least a time, providing the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) a temporary distraction. However, the PSUV has warned that Saturday’s marches could get ugly, claiming that the opposition is planning to engage in various acts of “terrorism”.