Venezuela Opposition Regroups to Renew Effort to Unseat President Maduro

  • Jose Luis Cartaya replaces Jesus Torreabla as coalition chief
  • Opposition alliance will no longer have a single spokesperson

Venezuela’s beleaguered political opposition has replaced its leadership and restructured its coalition as it seeks to launch a new offensive against President Nicolas Maduro.

On Friday, Jesus “Chuo” Torreabla announced he was stepping down from his role of executive secretary of the opposition coalition, known as the MUD, and would be replaced by Jose Luis Cartaya, a largely unknown political scientist who serves as the assistant secretary of congress. Additionally, Torreabla announced that the MUD would no longer have a single spokesperson, rather various coordinators, and the parties making up the alliance would rotate the coalition’s representation.

“In Venezuela, there’s an urgent need for a new opposition, it was absolutely necessary that the coalition restructures,” Torreabla said at news conference broadcast on local radio.

Venezuela’s opposition coalition -- comprised of a dozen-odd parties, from Marxist to the center-right -- has long suffered from fierce internal divisions over how to confront the country’s ruling socialists. After years as the political minority, the opposition scored an overwhelming victory in 2015 congressional elections, riding a wave of anger over deep recession and rampant food shortages to gain control of the legislature for first time since the late Hugo Chavez came to power.

With their new found majority in the National Assembly, the opposition promised to put an end to nearly two decades of socialist rule, but the MUD saw its major initiatives mostly stymied by courts and electoral authorities that are largely loyal to Maduro. While the embattled president’s approval ratings currently hover around 20 percent, he has likened efforts to launch a recall referendum against his rule to a “coup,” and insists Venezuela’s ills are not the result of bad policy, but rather foul play by political foes.

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