Venezuelan opposition urges Maduro to quit 'crying,' start working

Amid the worst economic crisis in Venezuela's recent history, opposition leaders are calling on President Nicolas Maduro to focus on the country's food shortages and other issues instead of his candidates' defeat in recent elections. 

REUTERS/Nacho Doce
A boy sits next to citizens lining up to buy chicken at a store in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday. The sign (in white) reads, "There are no eggs." Amid the country's worst economic crisis in recent history, opposition leaders have urged President Nicolas Maduro to focus on solving the food shortage and other issues.

Venezuela's opposition on Tuesday urged leftist President Nicolas Maduro to stop making excuses for his candidates' defeat in legislative elections and instead urgently tackle food shortages and free jailed politicians.

The worst economic crisis in the OPEC country's recent history has Venezuelan staples including flour, milk, meat, and beans running scarce. Shortages are particularly bad for the poor and beyond capital Caracas, with shoppers lining up for hours under the sun hoping a delivery truck will arrive.

"We urge the government to stop crying and start working," Democratic Unity coalition leader Jesus Torrealba said in a news conference under a sign reading 'Thank you Venezuela, we won!'.

The government boosted imports somewhat in the run-up to the election, but overall shipments have tumbled this year due to a recession and low oil prices, with many economists warning the scarcity may worsen over Christmas.

"We're just a few weeks away from a very serious problem in terms of food," Torrealba said.

Anger over shortages propelled the opposition to a long-elusive victory in Sunday's vote for a new National Assembly.

The coalition even swept traditional bastions of "Chavismo," the movement named after founder Hugo Chavez, including the Caracas slums and the ex-president's home state Barinas.

New legislators plan to launch investigations into corruption and pressure the government into publishing economic data such as inflation, which have not been divulged in a year.

But despite an overwhelming mandate for change, there is little the new opposition-controlled legislature will be able to do about unwieldy currency and prices controls which are a major factor in the economic mess.

At the news conference in a swanky Caracas hotel, Torrealba and other leaders from the opposition coalition's roughly two-dozen parties also called for the release of jailed activists including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

'Clear signal for Maduro'

The opposition has clinched 112 seats in the National Assembly to the Socialists' 55, the National Electoral Council's website confirmed on Tuesday night.

That supermajority of two-thirds gives the opposition a strong platform to challenge the broadly unpopular Maduro.

After what was clearly a mid-term punishment vote, Sunday's defeat has not prompted a mea culpa from the government or promises of substantial reform, though Maduro is facing heat from dissenting factions within his own coalition, once united in devotion to Chavez.

A senior government representative who asked not to be named acknowledged that the election result was a clear signal for Maduro, adding that there needs to be profound discussion and change within the government or it will face very serious trouble.

To be sure, Maduro has said the Socialist Party will hold an "extraordinary congress" and established commissions to "evaluate the situation and emerge with concrete proposals," suggesting some soul-searching is in store.

Yet he and his top officials continue to blame an "economic war" for confusing Venezuelans, describe the opposition as a "counter-revolutionary" force, and even warn disenchanted former supporters they will regret their vote.

Maduro says the opposition is a snooty U.S.-backed elite who would snatch government-provided houses and subsidized food away from the poor.

State television, which largely blocks out opposition rallies and press conference, has since Sunday minimized coverage of the election, instead broadcasting Chavez speeches, sports, and features on the government's social projects.

"This government does not understand that it lost, nor the magnitude of what is at stake," opposition activist Maria Corina Machado said.

(Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga and Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Alistair Bell and Alan Crosby)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Venezuelan opposition urges Maduro to quit 'crying,' start working
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today