With new leadership urging for unity, Venezuela’s opposition stands divided in South Florida

DORAL, Fla. – While the Venezuelan diaspora in South Florida agrees that Nicolás Maduro needs to be removed from power, they don’t all have hope for the future of the opposition and the 2024 presidential elections.

About two weeks ago, the opposition appointed Dr. Dinorah Figuera, a former surgeon, to lead them with the help of two vice presidents: Auristela Vásquez and Marianela Fernández.

Figuera, 61, and her two fellow exiled lawmakers are among the more than 7 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants worldwide. She said she works as an at-home caretaker in Spain and has high hopes for the next election.

“I want to become a uniting factor,” Figuera said in Spanish.

In late December, the majority of the opposition voted to replace Juan Guaidó and his interim government. Three main political parties — Justice First, Democratic Action, and A New Era — supported the new strategy.

Guaidó only had the support of his party, the Popular Will.

“I think it’s a very wrong decision at a very wrong time,” said Ernesto Ackerman, the president of Independent Venezuelan American Citizens, a Miami-Dade-based political activists’ group also known as IVAC.

Amid massive street protests and marches, Guaidó rose in 2019 out of the legislature that had been elected in 2015 and that deemed Maduro’s 2018 presidential election illegal.

“People had hope,” Ackerman said.

The hope didn’t last. While Guaidó had control of Citgo and other foreign assets in the U.S. and Europe, Maduro controlled the military and the judicial branch in Venezuela.

The opposition created a five-member commission to manage foreign assets. Venezuela owes billions to creditors, so the U.S. has protected Citgo, a subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., the state-owned oil and natural gas company.

The U.S. State Department released a statement on Jan. 3 recognizing the opposition leaders elected by the members of the 2015 National Assembly and reiterating Maduro’s presidency as illegitimate.

Maduro issued arrest warrants against Figuera, Fernández, Vásquez, and their secretary, Jose Figueredo, and sub-secretary, Luis Alberto Bustos.

“We need to fight in the streets for freedom,” Ackerman said.

Nongovernmental organizations in Venezuela including The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict reported hundreds of protesters died, vanished, or were injured during the demonstrations in 2017 and 2019.

A United Nations fact-finding mission reported “brutal policing practices, abject prison conditions, impunity for human rights violations, and harassment of human rights defenders and independent media.”

Visit Local 10 News in Español to watch Weddle’s complete 25-minute-long interview with Figueras.

About the Authors:

Cody Weddle joined Local 10 News as a full-time reporter in South Florida in August of 2022. Before that, Cody worked regularly with Local 10 since January of 2017 as a foreign correspondent in Venezuela and Colombia.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.