Timoteo Zambrano: If the mega election takes place, all the opposition will participate

The president of the AN Foreign Policy Commission considers that Venezuela is on the path of consensus. Photo: Orlando Alviarez

Timoteo Zambrano has been sitting at the three dialogue tables that have been established between the Government and the opposition throughout the Chavista era in search of the so-called “peaceful coexistence”. The one from 2002-2003 that was inaugurated in a headquarters of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference with the mediation of former Colombian president César Gaviria. It was the Negotiation and Agreements Table, whose deliberations took place at the Hotel Meliá Caracas, while the Plaza Francia de Altamira was boiling with soldiers.  

There Zambrano, a member of the opposition delegation, shared debates with the then deputy Nicolás Maduro, Leopoldo López and Alfredo Peña, mayors of Chacao and Caracas respectively, among others. Zambrano was also at the two dialogue tables sponsored by the Kingdom of Norway, the last one held in the Dominican Republic and where a sector of the opposition stopped and settled in Colombia until today. Zambrano and other opposition factors continued the dialogue and materialized an electoral agreement signed in September 2019. The result of this was the parliamentary elections of December 6, 2020, elections in which Timoteo competed with the card of Cambiemos, a party for which called as an organization “where everyone is welcome”. Now from parliament, Zambrano continues in his desire to dialogue from a special commission chaired by the president of the National Assembly (AN), Jorge Rodríguez. 

Timoteo precisely receives us at the Cambiemos headquarters with his entire work team, including Freddy Lepage, his companion when they were both active in Democratic Action. Upon arrival, he handed us a document out of the oven that summarizes his proposal for a mega-election, like a door that opens to the opposition sector that is outside and inside Venezuela. "That is feasible," he says at the outset, taking off his mask and smearing his hands with gel.    

- What have the Government-Opposition dialogue tables been for? 

—There have been different moments; and each moment has its desire. Let's locate 2002-2003 the great Negotiation and Agreements Table, where former President César Gaviria, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), came as a facilitator. It was not to solve the entire crisis in one sitting. Because here the methodology of 'nothing is agreed until everything is approved' is not applied. That is, if you have 100 points, until they agree with the 100 points, they do not sign the agreement. That methodology is evident that here it has failed; it failed in Norway and the Dominican Republic, but not everything we pre-agreed, which today are the base documents for any negotiation. It was the document of the National Dialogue Table, when we signed the agreement on September 16, 2019. Going back to the 2002-2003 table, there it was agreed to de-escalate political violence, we changed the electoral system to an automated one and the recall referendum. We achieved that referendum, we agreed on it. Another thing was the result.  

-What was the stumbling block in the Dominican Republic table held in 2016?  

-Several things. The method was very bad, 100%; This is not useful for the Venezuelan crisis, it is one more method for armed conflicts, because the armed group is not going to sign an agreement that would imply laying down its arms if it does not have 100% agreed. On the other hand, we proposed partial agreements that were the basis of the Table after the Dominican one. In 2016 we were in a borderline because Norway and the Dominican Republic saw that this was not going to get anywhere.  

-What did they do after that apparent failure? 

-We raised a table to the Venezuelan; first in the partial agreements methodology. Then a table not tutored, because there was already a wear and tear in the international community and a misinterpretation of agents, of factors that came to Venezuela to tutored and that if they did not do what they said, then they spoke that the process was flawed. Which was not done by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, I have to do that parenthesis because Zapatero was very respectful.  

-Has dialogue been used by the Government to cajole the opposition, as Juan González, spokesman for the US administration of Biden, says? 

-What I would say to Juan González is not to follow the path of Donald Trump in what he is proposing; The best thing is, not to go into the corners, I know that they are proposing a political initiative, but that initiative is including half the world and is not including Venezuela. They are going to trip over the same stone. I think that is a mistake. They must look at the country, here is a legitimately elected NA. That December 6 election is derived from a political agreement that was established in a signature on September 16, 2019 and that today that NA is conducting this important process of giving political, economic, and institutional stability to the country. Therefore I think it is easier and perhaps I repeat to Mr. Juan González, as I told senior officials of the Trump administration, that it was easier for them to negotiate directly from government to government or from president to president or from high commissions of the Executive Power with the Venezuelan Executive Power. They have to generate a change of attitude, of perception to advance in a negotiation that is more inclusive.  

-Are you aware of a meeting in Colombia between Jimmy Story, who is presenting himself as the US ambassador to Venezuela, and sectors of the opposition to plan actions? Were you invited? 

-No, no. I don't know beyond what the press says. Look, all these factors, the Colombian government, the Lima Group, the International Contact Group, the United States, in short, they have to understand that this changed as of December 6, 2020. That here the duality of powers ended ; In other words, these companions exist there, but they do not exist here. Venezuela is on another route, on the route of consensus, of agreements, of all rowing towards the same place to get this country out of the huge hole in which it has been. What is the healthiest thing? That they reconnect in a relationship between the states. Understand that this democratic, electoral, constitutional route is the route we can all find ourselves on. Therefore, it is more positive that they continue to support what the country is doing: the country is supporting this route; even when they destroyed the vote in Venezuela, nevertheless there is a recovery of that institution. We are going to constitute in the coming months our electoral process that is established by the Constitution. I believe that the international community has to embrace this route because the other one failed, that of the coup, the invasion, the sanctions, the blockade ... that route failed.  

-Will a rapprochement be possible with that sector of the opposition that continues to pursue this route? 

-They are much less. Look there an interesting phenomenon is taking place. What is remaining there is a certain political leadership of those organizations above, which are outside, because those who are inside here have already manifested in different ways to participate in the mega-lessons that are coming. If the mega-election takes place, they will participate. But there is something else: in the regions, all that local leadership is absolutely convinced to participate. There are complete states where we are all; those who do not have cards, would have cards in this alliance. What does that mean?; that the policy of the coup, the invasion, the sanctions, not only failed, now it has no followers. I think it was a great victory in that 6D process, there is a deep reflection in those games.  

- As a result of these comments, how is the Venezuelan opposition composed? 

-There are clearly two blocks. A bloc that has been on that violent route and a bloc that we have been on the electoral route. Now, that bloc, which has been on that other route, I think it is marking its demise, because there are fewer and fewer, more and more who are going to the electoral route. Now, within that group there are enormous contradictions; because those who stayed here in Venezuela, in the case of Enrique Capriles, for example, are, in their own way, looking for a route of participation and have expressed it. Maybe they establish their own political groups to participate. The logical thing would be that we all get together. 

-Has the Special Commission for Dialogue of the AN tried a rapprochement with Capriles and María Corina Machado? 

- Still officially in the Special Commission we have not had that information; but we know that there are many conversations at all levels. But it will be inevitable. The power to build this way out of electoral participation is not just a group. I think this is going to touch the entire national political spectrum, because the 6D simply brought politics back to this country. That electoral act was too important, with all the abstention that there was, but the fact that there was abstention does not mean that there was not the attention of the people and the expectation for the result. And now people are waiting for us to make it concrete: to resolve the issue of wages, unemployment, health, Covid-19, in short; I think people are giving a vote of confidence to this NA. That is why there will be a process of measures in the short term in which we can aim for economic, political and institutional stabilization. And we will seek to speak with those colleagues that you mentioned.  

-Is former deputy Juan Guaidó included in that list? 

-I do not see any problem that Juan Guaidó can participate in a meeting with the Special Commission for National Dialogue. I think so and the Commission will be open for that, no matter how much rejection there may be of factors there, I think that if he (Guaidó) enters this route, it will be important for the country.  

-Now that you talk about the electoral route, is a mega election like the one you are proposing feasible? Because we had the experience of 'the 28, the 28, the 28' in the year 2000.  

-There are a couple of issues to resolve. A matter of reforms of the Electoral Processes Law and then we would have to technically solve in software. It is a challenge. I have made inquiries and they tell me that it is perfectly possible, that the platform supports being able to introduce a software with these modifications to include candidates for governors, mayors and councilors. There is time to do it because those elections could not be before October. From the AN we could undertake the reforms that are necessary. 

- Is the advancement of the presidential elections contemplated in that proposal for the mega-elections? 

-No. Only for regional and municipal. We would be 100% complying with the constitutional times, especially with governors and mayors, because let us remember that it was in 2017 that governors were elected, in October the governors and in December the mayors. Now, we have a difference of four months with the regional deputies and one year with the councilors. That we would have to see in terms of the law how it is resolved. 

-Why do you propose those mega-elections where governors, deputies to the legislative councils, mayors and councilors would be elected in a single day? 

-There are several things. The first, we resolve our entire electoral issue before 2024, which is the presidential one. That will allow us to have a time of more or less three years to dedicate ourselves to various things: solving health issues, Covid-19, for example; having the mega election saves the State important in financial terms than having them separately. I think there would be a greater participation than the last parliamentarians because everyone would be rowing in the same direction. If you run a separate election for mayors, governors and councilors, that can have very low turnout. 

- Have you taken that idea of ​​the mega elections to any instance of political discussion? 

-I have been raising it in the media. I aspire that my Cambiemos party wins that battle in public opinion. In the opposition sector in general we agree with the mega elections. There are details: those who are councilors say 'well, are you going to take a year from me?' But in the end, that has a great objective and that is that we take care of the fight against Covid, against sanctions, the Essequibo. We are not going to solve our problems each one separately.  

-What is the status of the issue of prisoners for political reasons? 

-That is a topic that we are currently discussing. From Cambiemos we made a proposal in the electoral campaign and it was that the President of the Republic exercise his constitutional powers to pardon in the month of December, which was a very positive policy. That has not been resolved yet. What is desirable is that we could have an agreement to achieve a law that allows us to amnesty to everyone. But, that agreement is not only amnesty; That agreement also has to happen because those sectors that believe that the route is the coup, the invasion, the sanctions, have to give up that route. Because it is very difficult: you say, we are going to grant amnesty, but operations continue in that direction. So it is very difficult to give stability to this. It is complex in that way, we would have to have an agreement on all the factors to proceed with a general amnesty. The release of the 12 Pemons and others was tremendously positive, but there are still people who should be released. I also believe that those in exile have to return. We all have to do a great job there so that they get together with their families and participate politically.  

-They left voluntarily. 

-Well, there are some that do, some that don't. Volunteers because they feel like they were chasing him, that they were knocking on his door at midnight. AN can be that factor, the hinge between all these factors. 

- Would Antonio Ledezma be willing to come to Venezuela, what did you share with him in AD? 

-We have not spoken for a long time. I do not know. You make the decision and they decide whether to come or not, that is a problem that everyone would have to see. That is a question of yours that has a very important background. I know of people who want to come. 

-A Vuelta a la Patria plan for politicians? 

-Of course. In what conditions do they come? I think that's fair. That is why I was telling you that the ideal is to have a policy from the AN with the Executive in which we have an amnesty law that commits us all.   

-I see that Dr. Luisa Ortega Díaz always speaks from Colombia, like others. Would they come? 

-What happens is that Duque won't let her.  

Retail… 

  • ”We, as Cambiemos, rose up on May 7, 2018 as a parliamentary fraction of the previous National Assembly (AN). Some of us came from Un Nuevo Tiempo (a party founded by Manuel Rosales); where there were factors that we agreed on as to an alternative route to the violent route, at all or nothing " 
  • ”We are a new party. In the municipal elections of 2018 we obtained almost 30 thousand votes and then in this one (the parliamentarians) we got almost 60 thousand, we practically doubled our vote. We are not a mass party, we are a non-ideological party, a party that fights for the rights of minorities. It is a more thematic match. Here may be people who agree with us on some issues, but do not necessarily have to be militants "  
  • ”The Dialogue Table in the Dominican Republic had very positive things. For example, there we had the first pre-agreement with the entire electoral issue, the guarantees, which we pre-agreed and so it was established on December 2, 2017. By the way, that pre-agreement was executed in this agreement of September 16, 2019. To these (parliamentary) elections we transferred the guarantees, obviously it did not require major debates because that was pre-agreed between the government and the opposition. The person who originally presented this agreement was Vicente Díaz, former rector of the CNE; therefore, here we all are ”.  
  • ”We can articulate with a negotiation that can be opened with the United States, based on the Special Commission for National Dialogue chaired by the president of the AN, Jorge Rodríguez. That necessarily changes the pace of the negotiations: there you have a power of the State, the Legislative Power, recognized by both parties and, of course, from cooperation, we can work with the United States. Never from the guardianship, but from the cooperation with great pleasure; but what the US cannot do is ignore that this country exists. " 
  • "If you take away a member of a party, the free exercise of the vote, well what will he do? There is no trade that is not electoral, helping people solve problems, working with people "  
  • "It is proposed in the Special Commission of Dialogue of the AN to have some conversations with the churches. The steps are being taken to see how we approach this dialogue with them. I believe that this is a dialogue that should be more permanent in the case of the churches, the productive, trade union and educational sectors. I think it will have to be recurring until we fine-tune a document that we can all sign " 
  • "I believe that the president of Colombia should take care of his country. We are not asking you to take care of Venezuela. I believe that if you enter this cooperation route, it will do better for your people and you cannot forget that more than 5 million Colombian nationals live in this country. To have a good neighborhood you have to be in that search for cooperation and to fix things for the good and not be messing with the interference that has characterized that political class in Colombia against Venezuela "  
  • ”There are three categories of countries. There is a category of countries that do not absolutely recognize this new Venezuelan parliament; They neither speak, nor do they make a call to any member of parliament, nor do they receive a letter or do not answer it. That's one guy. Then you have a second segment of countries that do not recognize you in public, but they receive the call, they answer it, they accept you a coffee, it may be what we call here hooded. By the way, it is a huge majority. And then you have the one that supports completely without any problem "  
  • -The European Union, the United States, the Lima Group, are in a perplexed situation, they don't know how to solve it. They have been boxed in. In the case of the United States, Trump left that very closed to Biden, because when we talk that these executive orders are derived from a legislative act, you have to attack the legislative act so that all these sanctions decline. We are talking about almost 800 orders.  
  • "The European Union does not impose sanctions on the sale of oil, on the financial issue yes and that allowed us to have money frozen. The Lima Group is lurching, I think the trend is to disappear. I do not see life in the short term. That is dissolving as such "  
  • "Latin America must have a position against the United States and especially against sanctions, both American and European. When Latin America has that position, what are they going to do? Change. And that is our task from Parliament and we are going to work on it. This is a year in which Latin America has to take a political stance in the face of this fact of sanctions and the blockade. And march together to achieve the suspension of sanctions " 

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