María Corina Machado
|María Corina Machado|
|Machado at a gathering in Guarenas in 2014|
|Member of the National Assembly of Venezuela|
5 January 2011 – 21 March 2014
|Succeeded by||Ricardo Sánchez|
|Born||7 October 1967
|Political party||Vente Venezuela|
|Coalition for Democratic Unity
|Alma mater||Andrés Bello Catholic University, IESA|
María Corina Machado Parisca (born 7 October 1967, sometimes referred to as MCM) served as an elected member of the National Assembly of Venezuela (NA). She was the founder, former vice president, and former president of the Venezuelan volunteer civil organization Súmate, along with Alejandro Plaz, and a pre-candidate for the 2012 Venezuelan presidential elections.
Machado was charged (together with other Súmate representatives) with conspiracy for funds Súmate received from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), triggering condemnation of the administration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from human rights groups.
Machado was born 7 October 1967 as the "eldest of four daughters [of] a steel entrepreneur and an accomplished psychologist". She acknowledges a "childhood protected from contact with reality" in a "conservative, staunchly Catholic family", that included education in private schools in Venezuela and boarding schools in the USA and several trips in Europe. Her ancestors included the author of the 1881 classic Venezuela Heroica and a relative who was killed in an uprising against Venezuelan dictator Juan Vicente Gómez.
Machado has a degree in industrial engineering from Andrés Bello Catholic University and a Master's degree in finance from Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración (IESA, business school) in Caracas.
In 1992 Machado – a mother of three – started Fundación Atenea (Atenea Foundation), a foundation using private donations to care for orphaned and delinquent Caracas street children; she also served as chair of the Oportunitas Foundation. After working in the auto industry in Valencia she moved in 1993 to Caracas. Because of her subsequent role in Súmate, Machado left the foundation so that it would not be politicized.
According to The Washington Post, the founding of Venezuelan volunteer civil organization Súmate resulted from a hurried encounter between Machado and Alejandro Plaz in a hotel lobby in 2001, where they shared their concern about the course that was being shaped for Venezuela. Machado said, "Something clicked. I had this unsettling feeling that I could not stay at home and watch the country get polarized and collapse .... We had to keep the electoral process but change the course, to give Venezuelans the chance to count ourselves, to dissipate tensions before they built up. It was a choice of ballots over bullets."
In 2004, Súmate led a petition drive for a constitutional presidential recall of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. According to CBS News, Chávez branded the leaders of Súmate as conspirators, coup plotters and lackeys of the U.S. government. After the referendum, members of Súmate were charged with treason and conspiracy, under Article 132 of the Venezuelan Penal Code, for receiving financial support for their activities from the NED. The Wall Street Journal in 2005 said Machado faced conspiracy charge stemming from the $31,000 grant from the NED for "non-partisan educational work". Also in 2005, The New York Times said she was "the Venezuelan government's most detested adversary, a young woman with a quick wit and machine-gun-fast delivery who often appears in Washington or Madrid to denounce what she calls the erosion of democracy under President Hugo Chávez", and says the Venezuelan government considers her "a member of a corrupt elite that is doing the bidding of the much reviled Bush administration".
A U.S. Department of State spokesperson said the decision to prosecute her was "part of President Hugo Chávez's campaign ... aimed at frightening members of civil society and preventing them from exercising their democratic rights", adding that the Bush administration was "seriously concerned" about the Supreme Tribunal of Justice's (TSJ) decision. The criminal charges triggered condemnation from Human Rights Watch and democracy groups, the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela, and a coalition of world leaders.
Machado acknowledged in 2005 the support of Venezuelans for Chavez, saying "We have to recognize the positive things that have been done", but says that the president is "increasingly intolerant".
Machado and Plaz were invited to meet with National Assembly legislators in August 2006 for an investigation about Súmate's funding, but were denied access to the hearing, although they say they received two letters requesting their presence.
According to The Christian Science Monitor, she also faces treason charges for signing the Carmona Decree during the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela. Machado says she wrote her name on what she believed to be a sign-in sheet while visiting the presidential palace. The charges carry a penalty of more than a decade in prison; the trial was suspended in February 2006 because of due process violations by the trial judge, and has been postponed several times.
In 2011, Machado announced the launch of her pre-candidacy for the 2012 presidential primary elections. According to the Los Angeles Times, "both Machado and Mendoza are already being talked about as potential presidential candidates in two years." Michael Shifter said that Machado was a future presidential contender "who can effectively communicate a vision for a post-Chavez Venezuela that can appeal to enough Chavez supporters." According to the Financial Times, "Machado is being dubbed the new face of the opposition ... Even President Hugo Chávez has spoken of confronting her in the 2012 presidential elections."
On 13 January 2012, during the annual State of the Nation Speech delivered by Chávez to the Venezuelan National Assembly, Machado confronted him about shortages of basic goods, crime, and nationalizations of basic industries. "How can you say that you protect private property when you have been expropriating small businesses; expropriating and not paying is stealing."
The winner of the 12 February 2012 primaries to be the opposition candidate against Chávez in the October presidential election was Henrique Capriles Radonski; according to the Associated Press, Machado "conceded defeat before the results were announced, saying she also will actively back Capriles".
In February 2010, Machado resigned from Súmate and announced her candidacy for the National Assembly of Venezuela, representing Miranda (Chacao, Baruta, El Hatillo and the Parroquia Leoncio Martínez de Sucre) as a Justice First (Primera Justicia) party member of the Coalition for Democratic Unity (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática – MUD) in opposition to Chavez's party, United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela – PSUV). In announcing her candidacy, she said Venezuelans were good, decent and free people who don't want to live with violence or hate; she promised to defend the right for Venezuelans to think freely and live without fear. She said she hopes to build a "responsible government", transforming public institutions, especially the National Electoral Council (CNE). In April 2010, Machado won the primary election to advance her candidacy.
Machado campaigned actively in "slums once viewed as solid pro-Chavez territory", attempting to "capitalize on domestic problems, including widespread violent crime, power outages in some regions, a severe housing shortage and 30-percent inflation". A representative of the Bolivarian Circles, supportive of the Chavez' regime, described Machado as la candidata contrarrevolucionaria (the counterrevolutionary candidate).
Machado complained that MUD candidates faced "what she called a government-orchestrated propaganda machine that churns out spots ridiculing Chavez's critics, runs talk shows dominated by ruling party hopefuls and picks up all of the president's speeches", and that she had to campaign with less funds as she "struggled to convince supporters and business leaders to contribute to her campaign because they fear reprisals by the government and Chavez-friendly prosecutors". Venezuela's Constitution "prohibits government officials, including the president, from using their position to favour a political tendency. But the electoral authority, whose board comprises four chavistas and a lone oppositionist, says they can do it anyway," according to The Economist. Chavez was accused of breaking campaign laws by using state-run television to "berate rivals and praise friends" during the election campaign; he denied breaking the law, and suggested that the only director of the National Election Council's five directors who is not pro-Chavez and who raised the issue could be prosecuted for making the charges. According to a reporter for the Associated Press, Venezuela's electoral council "has for years ignored laws that bar the president and other elected officials from actively campaigning for candidates. Chavez ... has threatened legal action against Vicente Diaz, the lone member of the electoral council who has criticized his heavy use of state media ahead of the vote". Machado said, "While we are visiting voters, going from house to house, the ruling party's campaign is imposed through televised speeches." When the state-run television channel interviewed Machado, they ran images of her Oval Office meeting in 2005 with George W. Bush, described by an Associated Press reporter as "Chavez's longtime nemesis". She said, "We have a campaign led by the PSUV with a lot of resources that we know are public resources – even when the constitution prohibits it. The PSUV benefitted from frequent cadenas (Chavez speeches that every Venezuelan TV channel are mandated to run), while "the main government channel air[ed] a steady stream of rallies and ads featuring Chavez's red-clad candidates". When Machado was interviewed by the state-run channel, the interview was "abruptly cut off" and "shifted to a campaign rally where Chavez spoke to a theater filled with supporters".
Machado won election to the National Assembly in the 26 September 2010 polls, as the highest vote-getter in the nation; she and fellow Primero Justicia Miranda candidate Enrique Mendoza were the "two highest vote-getters nationwide". Machado said the president "made a big mistake by turning the election into a plebiscite on himself ... This is a clear signal that Venezuelans do not want an authoritarian government, a militarized government, a centralized government and a government that wants to turn Venezuela into Cuba ... A new phase begins today, and we've taken a big step toward the day when democratic values, freedom, justice and good governance prevail." "We now have the legitimacy of the citizen vote. We are the representatives of the people." "It is very clear. Venezuela said no to Cuban-like communism."
In 21 March 2014, Machado appeared as an alternate envoy at the request of Panama at the Organization of American States (OAS), amid protests in Venezuela, to speak about the situation in Venezuela. Following her appearance at the OAS, according to The Wall Street Journal, "pro-Maduro paliamentarians, who dominate the National Assembly" said her appearance at the OAS was prohibited by Venezuela's constitution, and removed her from the NA. Machado responded by accusing Diosdado Cabello (President of the National Assembly) of having a "dictatorship in the National Assembly" and said that her removal from the National Assembly was illegal.
2014 Venezuelan protests
Machado was among the leaders of the opposition demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro in the 2014 Venezuelan protests. Venezuela's Congress on 18 March requested a criminal investigation of Machado for crimes including treason for her involvement in the anti-government protests.
Machado responded to legal accusations made against her saying, "In a dictatorship, the weaker the regime is, the greater the repression." After her removal on 21 March, Machado, along with supporters, began a march on 1 April toward downtown Caracas protesting against Machado's expulsion, where Machado attempted to return to her seat in the National Assembly. The demonstrators were prevented from leaving by the National Guard, which dispersed them with tear gas.
In May 2014, a top Venezuelan government official, Jorge Rodriguez, presented allegations of a plot by opposition politicians and officials, including Machado, to overthrow the government of the Venezuelan President Maduro. The evidence provided by the Venezuelan government were alleged emails through Google that were addressed to others from both Machado and Pedro Burelli. Burelli responded that the emails were falsified by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), showing what he said were the original emails. In June, Venezuela's attorney general Luisa Ortega Díaz subpoenaed Machado along with Burelli, Diego Arria, and Ricardo Koesling; one week later, on 11 June, arrest warrants were issued. Burelli hired Kivu, a U.S.-based cybersecurity company, to analyze the alleged emails saying there was "no evidence of the existence of any emails between Pedro Burelli's Google email accounts and the alleged recipients", that the alleged emails presented by the Venezuelan government had "many indications of user manipulation", and that "Venezuelan officials used forged emails to accuse government adversaries of plotting to kill President Nicolas Maduro".
In November 2014, government officials announced that Machado was to be formally charged on 3 December. Machado and others stated that the accusations were false and were created by the Venezuelan government to deflect attention from Venezuela's economic problems and polls showing Maduro's approval rating at a record low of 30%.
Target of violence
While attending the bicentennial celebration of Venezuela's Declaration of Independence on 5 July 2011, following controversial comments made earlier by Machado about Venezuela's dependency on Cuba and not being independent, Machado was attacked by an angry group of Venezuelan government supporters. The group of about 50 threw stones and bottles at her; authorities defended her, and one officer was injured, was Machado evacuated from the area by a police motorbike. Machado later thanked the authorities for defending her and apologized for any of their injuries.
During Machado's presidential race in 2011, she and her companions were attacked on 16 October by a small group of the Motorized Front of the PSUV while in Turmero. The group allegedly attacked Machado and her companions with kicks, punches and objects while saying "this is chavista territory and this does not fit any political opposition". Machado and two of her companions were injured.
On 30 April 2013, cameras covering the National Assembly were turned to the ceiling and the opposition claimed they were "physically assaulted in a planned ambush by supporters of President Nicolas Maduro's government". Machado was injured, along with other legislators in the National Assembly, saying she was attacked from behind, hit in the face and kicked while on the floor which left her with a broken nose. Machado said the brawl "was a premeditated, cowardly, vile, aggression". President Maduro responded to the situation saying, "What happened today in the National Assembly, we do not agree with violence. They tell us and we knew that the opposition was coming to provoke violence". No disciplinary actions was taken against any of the attackers after the incident.
At a rally on 16 November 2013 showing support for the opposition party during municipal elections, Machado and other politicians were attacked, allegedly by government supporters, with stones and fireworks.
After leading protests in Bolivar state on 14 March 2014, Machado and others were attacked at the Puerto Ordaz airport. The attack affected Machado, the Bishop of Ciudad Guayana, Mariano Parra, and other citizens in the area. Soon after, the National Guard intervened to disperse the attack.
While heading a meeting in Caricuao on 30 July 2014, members of colectivos attacked Machado. The vehicle Machado was traveling in was heavily damaged, with the body and windows of the vehicle being struck with gun handles, sticks and stones. Machado escaped and was then moved to the assembly place while colectivos followed breaking down the door where they then left the scene after confrontations with residents protecting Machado.
U.S. President George W. Bush welcomed Machado to the Oval Office in May 2005. After meeting with Machado and discussing Súmate's "efforts to safeguard the integrity and transparency of Venezuela's electoral process", a White House spokesperson said, "[t]he President expressed his concerns about efforts to harass and intimidate Súmate and its leadership". Venezuela's foreign minister called Machado's meeting with Bush "a provocation," while Venezuela's interior minister said that she is a puppet of the CIA.
Machado was hailed by National Review in 2006 as "the best of womankind and the difficult times many women face around the globe" on a list of Women the World Should Know for International Women's Day.
In 2009, Machado was chosen out of 900 applicants as one of 15 accepted to the Yale World Fellows Program. The Yale University program, "aim[s] to build a global network of emerging leaders and to broaden international understanding worldwide. ... 'Each of the 2009 Yale World Fellows has demonstrated an outstanding record of accomplishment and unlimited potential for future success,' said Program Director Michael Cappello". The Yale World Fellows Program press release said, "Machado devotes herself to defending democratic institutions and civil liberties through SUMATE, the nation's leading watchdog for electoral transparency."
Machado was nominated for the Sakharov Award for Human Rights Defenders of the European Parliament by the Union, Progress and Democracy in 2014 "for her work in the defense of freedom and democracy" in Venezuela. The Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) noted in their nomination that they "want to help end the persecution of the Chavez regime against Machado, the MP of the National Assembly of Venezuela, from whom authorities withdrew their seat for an alleged violation of the Constitution".
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