Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Gonzalez seeks unity in first rally

PTI | Caracas | Updated: 19-05-2024 04:02 IST | Created: 18-05-2024 23:33 IST
Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Gonzalez seeks unity in first rally
Image Credit: Twitter(@EdmundoGU)
  • Country:
  • Venezuela Rb

The presidential candidate of Venezuela's chief opposition coalition on Saturday sought to cultivate a mood of hope and possibility in a massive rally that marked the start of a campaign he admittedly never imagined leading.

Edmundo González Urrutia, the former diplomat chosen by the coalition to replace the fiery leader María Corina Machado, invited thousands of supporters to gather in the community of La Victoria, his hometown. He urged them to imagine a country where public services are not a luxury, people are not imprisoned for their political beliefs and millions will return after having migrated throughout a decade in search of better economic opportunities.

“I guarantee a peaceful transition in which all political forces will be able to exercise their rights as allowed by the constitution,'' González said, addressing an audience of retirees, young adults and residents of the capital who traveled to see him and locals of the once-thriving industrial community.

He was joined on stage by Machado, whose candidacy for the July 28 election was barred by the government of President Nicolás Maduro. The crowd cheered for both. Street vendors sold T-shirts and baseball caps promoting the duo for $10. Venezuelan flags were also on sale.

González is the third candidate that the Unitary Platform opposition coalition has promoted as its own this year.

Machado, a former lawmaker, entered 2024 as the group's candidate after easily winning an October presidential primary, but a top court loyal to Venezuela's ruling party affirmed in January an administrative decision to ban her from office. She appointed a substitute in March — former academic Corina Yoris — but she, too, was barred from the ballot. Four days later, the coalition picked González.

La Victoria resident Maria Contreras, 75, arrived 4 1/2 hours early to the street where Saturday's rally was expected to take place. She waved at some acquaintances as they slowly began to arrive, most on foot, to catch a glimpse of Machado and González, whose mother was Contreras' fourth-grade teacher.

“We will achieve it! I have faith in God, and I ask him for this, on my knees, every day so that my grandchildren and children can return,” Contreras, a retired secretary, said. “I came here alone and on an empty stomach. It's horrible what happened to this community.” Contreras said she cleans homes in exchange for food. Her $3 a month pension does not allow her to even buy a kilogram of cheese or a 1-liter bottle of cooking oil.

González began his career as an aide to Venezuela's ambassador in the U.S. in the late 1970s. He had postings in Belgium and El Salvador and served as Caracas' ambassador to Algeria.

His last post was as ambassador to Argentina during the first years of the presidency of Hugo Chávez, who came to power in 1999. Chávez transformed Venezuela with socialist policies like nationalizing industries and launching welfare programs. Chávez handpicked Maduro to replace him before dying of cancer in 2013.

More recently, González worked as an international relations consultant and wrote a historical work on Venezuela during World War II. President Maduro is seeking a third term in July. His presidency has been marked by a complex crisis that pushed millions of people into poverty and more than 7.7 million others to migrate.

Many of those gathered Thursday in La Victoria loudly rejected the president.

“I don't want a bag!” some chanted referring to a bag of subsided food the government hands out to people. “What I want is for Nicolas to leave!”

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Give Feedback