Luis Alejandro Ratti – an unknown entity in Venezuelan politics – has declared that the primary elections organized by the anti-Chavista opposition to choose a presidential candidate “aren’t going to happen.” In an interview broadcast on social media, Ratti argued that the internal process – scheduled for October of 2022 – “is breaking the law.” He vowed to appeal to the “powers of the Venezuelan state” to challenge it.
Earlier, Ratti – who claims to be in the opposition – made an appeal to the Supreme Court… a body that is entirely controlled by Chavistas. He requested an annulment of the primaries, in addition to requesting the disqualification of María Corina Machado – a former congresswoman and high-profile opposition leader – as well as other opposition candidates. Ratti alleges that they have disturbed the public peace in the past, by “promoting the international blockade against [Venezuela] and requesting the invasion of foreign forces.”
Via tweet, he also stated that he would make a request for the opposition leadership – Machado in particular – to be investigated by the International Criminal Court, which is currently carrying out proceedings against the regime of Nicolás Maduro and its human rights abuses.
Despite this language – so similar to what is used by Maduro and the Chavista hierarchy –Luis Alejandro Ratti presents himself as a political leader “of the true opposition.” He wants to offer himself as an alternative to “a bad government” – that of Maduro’s – but, at the same time, he unequivocally distances himself from “the radicals.” In his opinion, these are members of the opposition who promoted violence during anti-Maduro protests and exposed the nation to foreign sanctions and intervention. He also accuses the Venezuelan opposition of corruption.
Despite Ratti’s efforts and threats, it was finally José Brito – from the Primero Venezuela party (Venezuela First) – who saved him the trouble, by asking the comptroller general for the political disqualification of Machado, a radical anti-Chavista whose popularity is rising rapidly in the polls. This disqualification was carried out immediately, on the grounds of Machado having promoted international aggression against the country and of “stimulating” the Venezuelan humanitarian exodus. Both Maduro and Diosdado Cabello – the vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela – have been accused of this many times by the opposition and much of the international community.
Brito is a former militant of the Primero Justicia (Justice First) opposition party who – along with other congresspeople – was accused in 2019 of using his position to take steps in Europe of trying to lighten the criminal charges against Alex Saab. Saab is a Colombian businessman with close ties to the Maduro government. Accused of money laundering, he is currently imprisoned in the United States. The controversy caused the opposition to break away from Brito and a handful of other congresspeople, henceforth labelled as “scorpions.” They were expelled from the group of opposition parties that make up the Unitary Platform coalition, following a harsh personal confrontation. In addition to Brito, this group includes Luis Parra, Bernabé Gutiérrez, Goyo Noriega and Oscar Ronderos.
Brito and his colleagues categorically deny these accusations. He has appeared on any television program that will have him to defend his name and affirm that corruption is rampant on the side of the so-called G-4 (the main opposition parties) and Machado’s smaller party, Vente Venezuela. The icing on the cake is what he has just declared about Alejandro Ratti: in a heated interview with journalist Vladimir Villegas (which has since gone viral on social media) Brito said that Ratti “is paid by María Corina Machado to do what he does. [He’s a figure] that nobody knows, who, overnight, suddenly asks for disqualifications and makes declarations that favor the government. I don’t allow anyone to compare me to that rat. I’m a politician and I’m exercising my right.”
Ratti – whose public profile has been virtually non-existent until now – is oblivious to this passionate debate. Despite his interest in behaving like a politician in both his language and manners, his whole life seems devoted to the private sector. He has been a businessman and previously managed a bookstore and stationery store in his hometown of Maracay. He ran for a seat in the National Assembly in the 2010s, but obtained a minuscule number of votes. On his Twitter account, he also calls himself a “motivator, preacher and lecturer.”
In fact, Ratti is already a presidential candidate for the 2024 elections – he’s running for the also-unknown National Action Party. With the slogan “for the love of Venezuela,” he made the announcement on social media. On his Twitter account – which has just over a thousand followers – he is frequently confronted by irate anti-Chavistas, who accuse him of being a puppet of the ruling party.
“For those who say that nobody knows me: I was a presidential candidate and we fought to expose the false opposition. They respect us on the street, they hate us on Twitter. We will never be with the G-4 and its maricorinos (a colloquial and derogatory term to allude to Machado and the most intransigent anti-Chavistas). We’re not going to be ambiguous,” he affirms on his personal account.
Ratti presented himself as a presidential candidate in the disputed elections of May of 2018, which was a breaking point in the international dimensions of the Venezuelan crisis. Almost all known opposition leaders boycotted or were banned from this election – Maduro was re-elected amid various complaints of fraud made by the opposition and an important part of the international community. Shortly before election day, Ratti dropped out in favor of Henri Falcón, the only opposition candidate who was allowed to compete.
At the moment, Ratti’s role seems to consist of sending the Chavista-dominated judicial institutions the messages they need, so that they can legally hand down politically-motivated decisions, which can be used to nullify the electoral organizing efforts of the Venezuelan opposition and its primary elections.
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