Venezuela's dissenting socialists deepen rift with Maduro

Reuters News
Posted: May 08, 2015 1:11 PM

By Alexandra Ulmer

CARACAS (Reuters) - A dissenting faction of Venezuela's Socialist Party is seeking to put forward its own candidates in this year's parliamentary election, deepening a rift with President Nicolas Maduro's unpopular administration.

Marea Socialista, or "Socialist Tide", a small group of leftist intellectuals, has accuses Maduro's government of spawning corruption and bureaucracy and betraying the legacy of the late Hugo Chavez.

Officials have ignored or attacked these criticisms, Marea Socialista says, further alienating the fringe group ahead of the election, for which the government has not set a date.

"We don't identify with the current behavior of the Socialist Party," said Nicmer Evans, a leader and spokesman for the group.

"We're aspiring to have parliamentary candidates present in all the country's districts," he said, adding Marea Socialista has applied to electoral authorities to become a political party.

Maduro, who lacks his late mentor's charisma, is struggling to keep his disparate coalition united in the face of a decaying economy.

Many Maduro foes want to end state control over production and foreign currency, which they blame for throwing the OPEC country into a recession, causing shortages of basic goods and pressuring inflation toward triple digits.

The dissident socialists favor more oversight and transparency in currency control and increased "worker control" and private sector input in production.

Venezuela's poor, the bedrock of support for Chavez and his oil-fueled social programs, have been particularly hard-hit. Many spend hours in line for milk or medicines and struggle to make ends meet as the monthly minimum wage hits around $26 on the black market.


Some are "sick and tired of Maduro's governance," said Evans, a fierce defender of Chavez. "What we're doing is offering an alternative proposal for the revolutionary people."

In addition to cracking down on corruption and bureaucracy, Marea Socialista proposes an "orderly" settlement to end hefty debt payments and instead use scarce dollars to boost imports.

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Critics say Marea Socialista fails to realize corruption and bureaucracy are inherent to the state-led system Chavez championed, and that only a major overhaul can salvage the economy.

Marea Socialista remains a niche group unlikely to gain mass traction. It may not even have a shot at going it alone, as its request lodged six months ago to become a party remains unanswered, Evans said.

"The first thing we're fighting for is an electoral card," he stressed. "In terms of social pressure for a readjustment, I think the inflection point is this parliamentary election."

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by David Gregorio)