By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- The illegitimately constituted government-controlled Constituent Assembly said Wednesday afternoon that Venezuela's three largest opposition parties would have to be qualified by it before being deemed able to field candidates in the next major electoral contest: the 2018 Presidential Elections.
This is the first time since the last military dictatorship, of Marcos Perez Jimenez in the 1950's, where a political party is threatened with such a ban.
Maduro threatened to ban forever all three parties on December 10th for not fielding candidates in the municipal elections, a move the embattled head of state characterized as a "boycott." Banning a political party for not running in a contest is neither a crime nor an offense in Venezuela.
Maduro's decision to ban the parties and to dissolve by fiat two municipalities held by the opposition comes just as the opposition and the government are holding talks on how to resolve the country's humanitarian and political crisis, noted opposition lawmaker Carlos Valero. And they don't bode well for the process.
"The decisions by the fraudulent Constituent Assembly against Acción Democratica, Voluntad Popular and Primero Justicia, are a new outrage and a very bad signal for the political negotiation being carried out The regime mocks the international community and the Venezuelan people constantly. It's not possible that Maduro talks about negotiating a peaceful exit when he wants to impose his anachronistic model at the price of the life and prosperity of the whole nation,, Valero told the La Region newspaper in an interview published Thursday.
Valero hails from "Un Nuevo Tiempo" an opposition party that was exempted from the ban but which is viewed with suspicion by many in Venezuela, who suspect it of being a "chavista" Fifth Column inside the divided, ailing opposition to Maduro.
The three parties, who form the spine of the MUD opposition coallition, will now have to subject themselves to a "re-legitimation" process controlled by leaders of Maduro's PSUV ruling party. Founded in 1941, Accion Democratica is one of the oldest center-left parties in the hemisphere. Six Presidents have come from its ranks, including Carlos Andres Perez, whom PSUV founder Hugo Chavez tried to depose in a coup d'etat in 1992.
In the last elections held in Venezuela where no one cried fraud, MUD handed the PSUV one of the most severe beatings in the country's electoal history. The three elections that followed that one, however, were all won, surprisingly but handily, by PSUV candidates, a development that elicited accusations of fraud from the Venezuelan opposition, the United States and the Organization of American States, as well as the imposition of the most severe sanctions the oil-rich nation has ever endured.