Ecstatic opposition leaders vowed on Monday to use their new majority in Venezuela’s legislature to free jailed opponents of the Socialist government but also said they would not move to dismantle popular welfare policies.
The opposition Democratic Unity coalition won more than twice the number of National Assembly seats as the Socialists in elections on Sunday that punished President Nicolas Maduro’s government for the country’s deep economic and social crisis.
It was the first time in 16 years the “Chavismo” movement, named for former socialist President Hugo Chavez, lost its majority in the 167-member assembly, and gives the opposition a platform to further erode Maduro’s power in the OPEC nation.
The 53-year-old president, who was handpicked by Chavez but lacks his charisma and political guile, quickly accepted defeat in a speech to the nation that calmed fears of violence.
Aware that victory owed more to public discontent with Maduro than love for the opposition, coalition head Jesus Torrealba urged Venezuelans to bury their differences.
“We have been divided for years and the country has won nothing with this historic mistake … The Democratic Unity is not here to mistreat anyone,” Torrealba, who was mocked by Maduro as an “evil Shrek” during the campaign, told supporters in a victory speech in the early hours of Monday.
Reiterating that an Amnesty Law will be the opposition’s priority when the new assembly begins work on Jan. 5, Torrealba promised to return the rights of “those who have been unjustly persecuted, jailed, blocked from politics or exiled”.
Venezuela’s best-known jailed politician…