Leaders of Venezuela’s fractured opposition are shaking voters’ hands and promising — yet again — that they will defeat President Nicolás Maduro at the ballot box.
Maduro is backed by the all-powerful United Socialist Party of Venezuela, which has controlled the nation and its oil wealth for a quarter-century. The party was led for 15 years by Hugo Chávez and has been behind Maduro for a decade, all the while tilting the electoral system in its favor and using government benefits as incentives to vote for it.
Despite the sky-high odds against them, opposition leaders say that giving up would be worse, so they’re holding an Oct. 22 primary to decide who will take on Maduro next year. They are getting a lukewarm reception from dispirited voters who were told for years to boycott elections.
Interested candidates could officially enter the race starting Tuesday but many election basics — such as who will vote, how and where — remain undetermined. Still, so far about 10 politicians think they have what it takes to face Maduro and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
“All of us Venezuelans who want to live better, who want to live in a democracy, must do what is within our reach,” said Jesús María Casal, a constitutional attorney who heads the body overseeing the primary.