Leopoldo López Mendoza, the young and charismatic social democratic mayor of the Chacao division of Caracas, is one of opposition candidates currently banned from contesting November’s municipal elections. He was a favored candidate to win the mayoralty of the Venezuelan capital until his candidacy was proscribed on vaguely-worded charges of corruption.
The popular social democrat – he won 81 percent of votes when elected in 2004 – has departed from the standard opposition narrative, challenging Chavista legitimacy on largely constitutional grounds, to focus on inequality and public security serve as Venezuela’s main challenges. Lopez is considered a future presidential rival to Chavez and one of a new breed of leaders eager to heal and transcend the country’s acute social and political polarization.
This recent interview is an interesting read:
AS/COA: I’ve noticed in reading interviews and in other articles about you that you use this word “alternative” as opposed to “opposition.” Could you talk a little bit about that and what the distinction is in your eyes?
López: The distinction is in the words themselves, and words matter. The word “opposition” is basically defined by conflict, it is defined by opposing, it is defined by the other, and it is not defined by what is proposed. If we define ourselves as opposition, we are defining ourselves as something different than what the other is presenting and I think that limits the scope and the buildup of a new majority, which is our goal.
What we are presenting is an alternative, and if we are an alternative to this government we are an alternative in the way we conceive social policy, economic policies, and political understanding. We are an alternative in terms of bringing Venezuelans together with a tolerant and an inclusive way of understanding democracy. We are an alternative in terms of presenting solutions for poverty and for public safety, which are the main issues that Venezuelans need to have addressed by their government.
That’s why we use the concept of “alternative” because for many years, the Venezuelan opposition has been only that, opposition, and that of course limits the potential that we can have of building the new majority that I was talking about.
Read the rest.