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04CARACAS3077 2004-10-01 11:55:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

PRIMERO JUSTICIA JUMPS FROM THE SINKING OPPOSITION

Tags:   PGOV KDEM PHUM VE 
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1. (C) Venezuelan opposition party Primero Justicia withdrew
from the Coordinadora Democratica September 24. Lines of
cooperation among groups opposed to President Hugo Chavez
have been reduced to documenting fraud claims related to the
referendum, negotiating with the National Electoral Council
(CNE) for the October 31 elections for governors and mayors,
and selecting unified candidates to face pro-Chavez
candidates in those elections. End summary.



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Primero Justicia Separates from the Coordinadora


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2. (U) Leaders of the opposition political party Primero
Justicia (PJ) announced September 24 the party had withdrawn
from the Coordinadora Democratica. PJ leader Julio Borges
told reporters the Coordinadora had done a respectable job in
reaching the recall referendum against President Hugo Chavez.
He said it is now time for PJ to leave the opposition
alliance and build a political party that offers a viable
alternative to Venezuelans. The 34-year-old Borges said PJ
hopes to facilitate a "generational change" in political
leadership in Venezuela.



3. (C) PJ Secretary General Jose Luis Mejias told poloff
September 29 PJ's post-referendum strategy is to go into the
poor neighborhoods and make inroads into Chavez's support
base. In an effort to dispel PJ's image as a right-wing
party of young rich urbanites, Mejias said PJ would open the
party to other sectors of Venezuelan society. He
specifically mentioned the possibility that Causa R, led by
former presidential hopeful and labor activist Andres
Velasquez, might join with PJ. (Velasquez and Alianza Bravo
Pueblo's Antonio Ledezma separated from the Coordinadora just
days before (ref a).) Mejias said PJ is not focused on the
October 31 elections for governors and mayors as PJ has only
a handful of likely winners. He said PJ is instead more
focused on the 2005 National Assembly elections and on
fielding a candidate to challenge President Chavez in 2006.



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Death Rites For the Coordinadora


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4. (C) Mejias described PJ's departure from the Coordinadora
as a political necessity. He said the Coordinadora was
"practically dead" and no longer served PJ's interests. He
added that Accion Democratica and Proyecto Venezuela had also
quit the Coordinadora though without fanfare. Mejias said
only three areas of cooperation currently among opposition
groups remain. First, the secretaries general of opposition
parties continue to meet regularly to work out single
opposition candidacies to face pro-Chavez candidates in the
regional elections. Mejias was pessimistic on this point,
however, saying there is no political will to consolidate
candidacies. Second, opposition governors and mayors
continue their common negotiation with the National Electoral
Council (CNE) to secure acceptable conditions for the
regional elections. Third, a diverse team of experts,
including PJ representatives, will continue to work with
Tulio Alvarez to pursue fraud charges related to the recall
referendum (ref b). Mejias added that the Coordinadora's
political committee, composed of parties and NGOs, has ceased
to hold meetings.



5. (C) In a lunch with Coordinadora representatives Juan
Fernandez (Gente de Petroleo), Daniel Thiman (an aide to
Miranda State Governor Enrique Mendoza), and Amado Dounia (an
electoral expert with the COPEI party), Fernandez expressed
great disappointment in the Coordinadora. He said the
Coordinadora had become "nothing" and lamented that many
groups had forsaken opposition unity to serve their own
interests. Fernandez said he was not in agreement with
Mendoza's decision to hand control of the Coordinadora over

to Pompeyo Marquez, whom he described as "an old man" who
lacks vision. Thiman criticized the MAS party and its
associated NGOs as "a bunch of leftists" who practically
joined the government by giving in after the referendum.



6. (C) Fernandez, who has been attending assemblies
throughout Venezuela of his organization's membership, said
he saw little cooperation among opposition groups in the
country's interior and predicted they would lose
overwhelmingly in the regional elections. He asserted that
Chavez is already trying to build a "Chavista-lite"
opposition, financed indirectly by the GOV, to contend with
Chavez's traditional opponents and play the part of a loyal
opposition.



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Comment


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7. (C) The passing of the referendum eliminated the cohesive
force that maintained unity with the Coordinadora. Parties
with a wisp of political future are protecting their
interests by participating in the elections while others
(mostly opposition NGOs) are attributing to themselves the
moral high ground and withdrawing, for now, from the scene.
The result for the time being is the re-fragmentation of the
opposition. Primero Justicia is the first major party to
leave the Coordinadora. PJ has always fancied itself as a
"party of the future" and so it is not surprising it would
not linger around the political corpse of the Coordinadora.
The party faces a challenge, however, to shed its yuppie
image and cast itself as an organization with popular roots.

Brownfield


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2004CARACA03077 - CONFIDENTIAL