Capriles calls for opposition unity and peaceful protests

| Jan. 15, 2015 | Caracas, Venezuela

Published by Economist Intelligence Unit


Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has called for peaceful protests and opposition unity as shortages for most Venezuelans continue to worsen.


A two-time presidential candidate, Mr Capriles spoke out just before the one-year anniversary of major anti-government protests that left more than 40 people dead. While fellow opposition heavyweights Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado were active in their support for the protests last year (Mr López remains in jail for his role in inciting them), Mr Capriles maintained a low profile, reportedly concerned that the violence associated with the protests would damage the opposition's cause.

Mr Capriles is now taking a more vocal role. He received strong criticism from within the opposition for his refusal to join the protests last year; Mr López subsequently rose to prominence and enjoyed a strong base of support, making him the opposition's de facto leader for some time. Mr Capriles is known to have tenuous relationships with both Mr López and Ms Corina, who he holds responsible for the deep splits within the opposition that have made it an ineffective force against the ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela. This week Mr López, Ms Corina and the opposition mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, released a joint statement—separately from Mr Capriles—arguing that the time for change is now. While sporadic protests are taking place—mainly in response to long supermarket queues and worsening shortages in recent weeks—they have yet to consolidate into a mass movement. The mood is tense and major protests could break out at any time.

Venezuela's oil basket, composed of heavy crude, is hovering at around US$40/barrel, a decline of more than 60% over the past six months. The president, Nicolás Maduro, is wrapping up a tour of OPEC members—including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran and Algeria—but is unlikely to succeed in convincing producers to cut output in an effort to push up prices. Mr Maduro also made an unexpected stop in Russia to meet with his counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Although Mr Maduro said that he had secured "several billion dollars" in financing from Qatari banks, no details were given.

Impact on the forecast

We maintain our forecast that the opposition will remain divided and that Mr Maduro will remain in power.