Octavio Orta: The opposition is right now in its litmus test

Between Caracas and the plain. This is how the days of Octavio Reynaldo Orta González pass, current deputy to the National Assembly (AN), born in Caracas and brought to Palenque eight days later, a village lost in the sabanales of the Francisco de Miranda municipality (Calabozo) where a The day passed by the bus carrying a lot of students detained in the capital by Juan Vicente Gómez's police, according to the story of Miguel Otero Silva in Casas Muertas. They were from the so-called “Generation of 28”, that student movement that confronted Gómez and of which Rodolfo Quintero, Miguel Acosta Saignes, Andrés Eloy Blanco, Rómulo Betancourt, Jóvito Villalba and Otero Silva himself were part. 

Precisely the novel Casas Muertas takes place in Ortiz and other neighboring towns in the northeast of Guárico, victims of those deadly diseases that ruined their lives. And precisely Orta González has a piece of land in one of those towns. Parapara, a neighbor of Ortiz and San Juan de los Morros. “It is not Parapara de Ortiz; It is Parapara, they are two different towns ”, clarified Octavio, of a llanera lineage that comes from his mother, born in San José de Guaribe, and from his father, a native of Las Mercedes del Llano. "Here we grow cereals, we raise cattle and we make cheese," says Orta, alluding to his agricultural and livestock activity in that plains town where Jacinta Pareja, the wife of Joaquín Crespo, was born twice as president of Venezuela.  

Orta González, lawyer, university professor and husband of Miss World 2011 Ivian Sarcos, is also running for the government of Guárico for the opposition. He came to the AN as part of that opposition that separated itself from the violent path to gain power. And now, that bloc that rehearsed the path of the guarimbas several times with blocked streets, artisanal mortars, Molotov and with a self-proclaimed “interim president” deputy, is sitting at a dialogue table installed in Mexico, whose first agreements were announced this September 6. One day after that event, Orta González received us in his office, located in a shopping center in the Chacao municipality (Miranda), where he answered all the questions sometimes interrupted by calls from the Guariqueño leader Héctor Cedillo or the rector Enrique Márquez. 

—Yesterday, two agreements signed between the Government of President Nicolás Maduro and a sector of the opposition were announced, related to the defense of the Essequibo territory and the intention to recover Venezuelan assets deposited in foreign banks. How do you analyze that political event?

—Those are the two agreements that were formally reached, but there is an implicit agreement that is the recognition of the parties. I think that when the opposition sits down with the government, they are recognizing the institutional framework that they had not known about. That is not in the document, but they are recognizing that there is a Government and a National Assembly. For example, Jorge Rodríguez is signing the document as president of the AN; This is important because it is like a path to the reinstitutionalization of the country. As for what was achieved, the Essequibo issue, I think it is a very complex issue that has been on the table for too long and does not have an immediate agreement. I do not underestimate the Essequibo issue at all, but I think that it takes much longer to resolve. Defending the Essequibo is the duty of all Venezuelans, there was no need to make an agreement for that. That has to be implicit.

—That mutual recognition between the Government and the opposition, what impact can it have on the upcoming elections?

—I hope that this opposition that had not entered the electoral path to make political changes in the country, is rational enough and does not come to impact the spaces that have already been achieved. There are both local and regional spaces that can be conquered. The fact that they want to participate in the elections, that participation must be in order to displace a government that they have already recognized. Not to be a third party that manages to screw them into power. 

"Does this fear have a basis?"

-Yes. We have talked about it both here and people who are outside the country. In that opposition sector there are very rational people and I am sure that their intention is to participate where we have the possibility of winning and there is a created leadership which we cannot hinder. 

- Will that mean the review of some opposition candidates?

-Yes, of course. That would imply that review. Yes of course. 

"Has there been any discussion of a method for this review?"

—I think that with the haste, because there are 72 days left for the elections, the method has to be consensus and rationality because there is no time to hold primaries. And the surveys, we already see the result in Miranda: they are relative or they are absolute. In that case, I think that instead of solving the problem, they rather hindered it. I call for political rationality to prevail over personal interests.

—We have observed several opposition blocs. Is there an instance that brings them together and guides them in solving these problems like the one raised?

—There is no such instance. Let's hope that the Government does not use that to divide and that the actors do not fall into the temptation of dividing for the sake of dividing. 

—The other document signed refers to the economic issue. 

—The economic issue implies the recovery of assets that are dammed abroad and that can affect the well-being of Venezuelans.

—In that second agreement, the word “sanctions” appears for the first time in a document signed by both parties, alluding to the measures imposed by the United States and the European Union against the Venezuelan economy. 

—The sanctions have affected the people in general. No one can say that it has affected the government. It is historically proven that sanctions against governments are what they do is establish them and make them stronger. If the sanctions issue were to be resolved in some way and that we enter into an economic rationality, there the people would see an improvement and it would be rational, beyond the political. When you travel through the Guarico state, for example, you see the damage that has been done to the population by depriving it of goods. Perhaps that is concatenated with poor government management; but they have an excuse: sanctions. I would like there to be no sanctions because they affect the people and it would also take away an excuse from the bad government. 

—Before signing that agreement in Mexico, the Government and business associations such as Fedecámaras had already met. How much progress has been made in those conversations?

—There has been a lot of progress there, because the Government has also recognized that it needs the private sector to be able to advance public policies. That is a recognition that had not existed in the last 20 years. And I think they are making a piss on the issue of expropriations and the issue that mistakes were made.

—They have been negotiations worked in silence.

—Perhaps not publicly but in private, they have quietly begun to privatize hotels, to deliver things that were taken and that were not working. Maybe it is an unannounced public policy but it is happening. Mare-Mare (Puerto La Cruz), Intercontinental (Valencia) and Maruma (Maracaibo) have been handed over to private companies to be exploited. And we have also seen the circulation of the dollar as a valid currency, even recognized by the Supreme Court of Justice for some cases such as lease contracts.  

—You who come from the agricultural sector, has that same methodology been used there?

-No. Unfortunately, this process has not begun for the State to get rid of those agro-industries that are totally paralyzed. In Guarico, for example, the Alpaca cotton company, which processed cottons as good as Egyptian, is completely paralyzed; We have the Agroisleña facilities, which are now Agropatria, mostly paralyzed, at 10%; immense amounts of land that have not been worked because they were nationalized. That should be immediate because the recovery of agribusiness is essential. 

—And shouldn't the private sector actively participate in that?

—In Venezuela there is no money to import food and it is much cheaper to produce it in the country and that also produces employment for you, it gives people security; but until the individual does not feel that the State is not going to keep running over them, they will be afraid. In the tourism sector there are good signs of recognition of mistakes, but not yet in the agro-industrial sector. In Guárico, 10% of the capacity is being planted, which is 440 thousand exploitable hectares.

- What is attributed this situation?

—Various reasons, but the fundamental reason is that the resources of the planting plan that contemplated the planting of at least 150 hectares did not arrive. The rainy season is already leaving and it was not sown. The State has to support the private sector so that the private sector is its partner in maintaining the national economy. The private person cannot abuse the rights they have either. 

"Is food sovereignty compromised?"

"Very committed." We are not producing what we are eating and we do not have money to import. That coupled with the issue of the pandemic: let's hope it lets us work with some peace of mind next year. But I also tell you that there is foreign capital in Venezuelan hands that are willing to return to Venezuela to invest in agribusiness. They have contacted me. The problem is one of political stability. I think that meeting in Mexico is giving some stability. Let's hope that the actors who are in that meeting are rational in terms of applying that breadth. 

- Has the agricultural sector had contact with Minister Wilmar Castro Soteldo to discuss the situation that you are commenting on?

-No. What happens is that in Portuguesa, Apure, Cojedes, Barinas, production has increased. In Guárico there is no capacity to request the resources that are required. You have to present a project and allow it to be audited.

—How do you feel that the opposition people digest that Dialogue Table that works in Mexico?

—The people, let alone the opposition people, are very upset. I go to Guarico, I knock on the doors and I perceive that people know that the way is through elections. So I hope that a new disappointment is not created. The people want seriousness; if you say 'we are going to participate in the elections', then we go. It is not that we go today and then we do not go. Or we win and we do not take the Government as happened in the state of Zulia. If you are elected to be Governor, you have to govern with the president who is there. That is what the people want, to be treated seriously, because in the last five years they have been tired of the lack of seriousness of the opposition. Very tired. 

—Recently, a delegation from the World Inter-Parliamentary Union visited Venezuela and hinted a certain recognition of the defunct National Assembly for the period 2015-2020. What do you think?

"I think that was a prank by the journalists." But that was not so. This meeting in Mexico leaves out any intention of having another NA because I saw the document signed by Jorge Rodríguez, president of the Parliament and there was Tomás Guanipa, Gerardo Blyde, Luis Aquiles Moreno, Luis Emilio Rondón. And many of them of them are candidates. I don't know until when Mr. Guaidó will continue to call himself interim president. He is president alone, there is no one left, because the vice president of that AN is Enrique Márquez, who is rector of the CNE right now. The signing of that document in Mexico gave the extreme unction to that NA and that alleged interim government. 

—How do you see Venezuela after the elections on November 21?

—I visualize it, as long as it deprives rationality in the opposition, with governorships and mayoralties on our side and with a recognizing government. And preparing at once for a presidential electoral process that is faster than people think, because 2024 is the day after tomorrow. The government is going to have a counterweight that it is going to demand and the opposition has to prepare for the presidential elections and replace it. Let it be clear, replace it in an electoral way. 

- Is the opposition prepared to replace Chavismo?

"I think not at this time." In the regions there are new actors and old actors who can do it. The opposition is in its litmus test, because if it does not replace Chavismo, it means that Chavismo is winning because it is better politically. I think they have to agree. I see discussions as sterile as the one that is happening in Miranda state and that is what disappoints the people. As you say, there must be some instance of conflict resolution, internal, not public. The instance cannot be twitter, instagram or television. Because with Chavismo we have seen that there were differences but in the end they resolved their differences. And what hit the streets was 10% of the discussions that they had within the internal elections. Because they have a common political project. 

Does the opposition have a common political project?

—The opposition must have a common political project, which is the seizure of power through elections. Not through other ways. And once you are in power to exercise it in a more efficient way. But they have to agree. The opposition managed in recent years as the interim government of twitter, instagram and totally abandoned people. So much so that when you arrive in person they tell you 'conchale veniste', 'first time a candidate comes here'. So I have good omens. 


  • "The opposition has lost the elections in the last five years for lack of seriousness. Hopefully syndéresis arrives at this time. The one who was not convinced of going to the elections was convinced when he saw that we have been in candidacies for two months. That is why the same people are demanding that they be serious; that we all live up to the commitment that history is not making now "  
  • "By having a recognition of the parties, as happened at the table in Mexico, you can advance concretely, for example in access to resources for the issue of food, supplies, medicines."  
  • “For the first time in 22 years we see this phenomenon of a CNE with two main rectors of the opposition sector. They will not be given to disregard votes. Before, one could have the doubt that there was fraud, although I never thought about it; now I am certain that this possibility does not exist and that this electoral event on November 21 will be carried out with the best possible organization. And the country after that day is going to have the power that affects them, the nearby power, mayors, governors, councilors ”. 

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