Over the last few days we’ve been looking at some of Venezuela’s slimier chavistas. But let’s not leave the impression that all the unsavory public figures in that country are members of the ruling party. Not officially, anyway.
Take Henry Lisandro Ramos Allup, a lawyer who is Secretary General of Acción Democrática, Venezuela’s largest opposition party, and who represents Venezuela in the Latin American Parliament. Acción Democrática isn’t a conservative or classical liberal party; like Chávez‘s PSUV, it’s a left-wing party. Indeed, Ramos is currently Vice President of the Socialist International. And although he’s purportedly a leader of the opposition to Maduro’s government, he’s very – shall we say – diplomatic when discussing the ruling party. He believes, he says, not in confrontation but in respectful discussion and debate.
The man he does criticize – and very fiercely, at that – is his fellow opposition leader, Léopoldo López. Founder of the pro-freedom party Voluntad Popular, López is Venezuela’s most admired politician. He’s been in prison since February of last year, having been locked up by Maduro because he loudly and eloquently assailed the regime’s systematic violation of basic freedoms and human rights. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other such groups have called for López‘s immediate release; Ramos, however, has persisted in slamming him even while he’s been in the slammer, condemning his spirited approach as counterproductive and divisive. The irony here, of course, is that Ramos’s cheap, cowardly swipes at López are nothing if not divisive for the Venezuelan opposition. This past February, when leaders from a range of opposition parties took part in a demonstration protesting López‘s continued imprisonment, Ramos stayed away, as did his cronies from Acción Democrática. How could that be interpreted, other than as a tacit endorsement of the chavista practice of putting its real opponents behind bars?
Why is Ramos so hostile to López? One reason is doubtless sheer envy. A 2006 cable, written by U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela William R. Brownfield and later made public by Wikileaks, described Ramos as a “crude” and “abrasive” figure whose “repellent” personality and lack of imagination made him a burden to his own party. López, by contrast, is unusually intelligent, articulate, and attractive – a stirring, courageous figure whose vigorous denunciations of the oppressive and fiscally disastrous Maduro regime have struck a chord among millions of increasingly fed-up Venezuelans.
But another reason for Ramos’s criticism of López, we suspect, is that Ramos, a socialist, isn’t really all that opposed to the ideology of the Maduro regime. On the contrary, there’s ample evidence that Ramos has intimate and profitable links to what one of his critics has called “the revolution’s most unsavory characters.” Welcome, then, to Venezuela, where even the head of the largest opposition party is uncomfortably close to being a chavista stooge himself.