Venezuela has faced months of opposition protests as international mediation efforts have proved inconclusive. In an email interview, Michael McCarthy, a professorial lecturer of Latin American politics at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, explained the diverse constituencies the opposition represents.
WPR: Who are the major constituencies that make up the political opposition in Venezuela?
Michael McCarthy: The Venezuelan constitution currently bans public financing of parties and political campaigns. This creates a structural issue for the 19 political parties formally composing the opposition’s Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), an electoral coalition with the objective of winning support away from the government. These parties, the strongest of which are Primero Justicia (First Justice), Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) and Accion Democratica (Democratic Action), rely on wealthy individuals and businesses as their primary financial backers. Numerically, this economic elite is dwindling, as the government’s economic model is crowding out the private sector. Still, this elite group exerts influence over opposition parties, especially during “primary season”—periods such as 2014 when no elections are held and parties develop their platforms, recruit and select their candidates, and conceive strategies for the upcoming campaign. Venezuela’s economic elite are more like a core coalition than a major constituency because of their “big influence, small size” dynamic.