Caracas – Just a few days ago, when the opposition in Venezuela could only dream of an electoral victory – not to say a landslide victory- that would finally give them an audible voice in the National Assembly, a foreign correspondent asked Julio Borges, one of the country’s top opposition leaders, if the coalition would seek to remove President Nicolás Maduro from office in that hypothetical case.
“Let’s not go crazy,” he said with a smirk.
But then Sunday happened and, 48 hours later, the electoral board confirmed the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) obtained the 112 seats needed to get the supermajority and thus the constitutional power to sack Supreme Court justices, rewrite Hugo Chavez's 1999 constitution — and, yes, initiate a referendum to revoke Maduro's mandate.
Now opposition leaders are discussing the idea openly and with gusto, after 17 years of uninterrupted Chavista rule. The notion of sacking Nicolás Maduro, an unpopular president elected by the narrowest of margins (1.5 percent) is gaining traction in Venezuela.
Before the election, polls gave the 53-year-old president a 27 percent approval.
The opposition’s victory was so resounding that it has caused a crisis within Chavismo, with at least one former Maduro official, Eduardo Samán, publicly blaming the president for Sunday’s defeat.
On Tuesday Caracas was buzzing with rumors regarding disaffected military leaders, the full cabinet ready to resign and even of political parties that had so far backed Maduro deserting the president.
Since his gloomy appearance on Sunday night, Maduro has remained holed up in the Miraflores Presidential Palace in downtown Caracas, reportedly trying to reach out to allies.
Meanwhile, many of the opposition heavyweights are saying that said they want presidential elections within a year.
“This government is just useless, I think this is a government whose countdown has started today,” said Henry Ramos, the longest-serving representative and a staunch opposition leader from Acción Democrática told Fox News Latino.
“I don’t see this government ending its mandate in three years. It is too weak and now it is weaker by the internal divisions that are evident after this defeat,” added Ramos, who got reelected for Caracas.
In Caracas, which electionwise counts as a state, Chavismo has now zero of the 8 slots voted.
Freddy Guevara, the most voted lawmaker in Venezuela with almost half a million votes, toed the line of regime change and even took it a couple steps further.
What about, you know, a little conciliation?, one reporter ventured at one point on Monday. “Conciliation [is possible] with the people including the Chavista people, because they voted for us, too,” he said.
“Conciliation with the government? We will dialogue and reach agreements toward change, not toward maintaining the status quo,” he continued. “We will not collaborate in them staying in power.”
He said the opposition, whose top visible leader has yet to emerge, has now to figure out how to use its newly-found electoral leverage in order to remove Maduro or, in Guevara’s words, “how will we use this power that the people has given us until it translates into a change in government, a change in the system and a change in (political) model.”
“Change needs to be consolidated through a change in government. We must elect a new government, and give that new government governability. This isn’t over,” he said.
Carlos Camacho is a freelance writer based in Caracas. You can follow him @carloselpana.