María Corina Machado
|María Corina Machado|
|Machado at the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Rio de Janeiro (2011)|
|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|
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.
On February 2010, Machado resigned from Súmate and announced her candidacy for the September 2010 elections for the National Assembly of Venezuela; she was elected as the highest vote-getter in the national elections.
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 Venezuelan private schools and U.S. boarding schools (she is perfectly fluent in English), and trips to 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."
National Assembly brawl
On 30 April 2013, weeks after Nicolas Maduro won the presidential election, cameras covering the National Assembly 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 during "brawl", 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 were given to any of the attackers after the incident.
In 21 March 2014, Machado took office as "alternate envoy" of Panama at the Organization of American States (OAS), amid of protests in Venezuela, in order to speak about the situation in her country. This constituted a violation of the 149st and 191st article of the Venezuelan Constitution, that prohibits MPs from taking offices of foreign states without prior permission of the Parliament. Three days later, the Parliament President Diosdado Cabello, said that the Machado’s acceptance of the position given by Panama at the OAS meant an actual resignation from office because she did not ask permission to do so, thus Machado became into a "former deputy", and he called for Machado’s alternate, Ricardo Sánchez, to assume Machado’s former office. On March 31st the Supreme Court of Venezuela ratified the actions of the National Assembly regarding the loss of Machado’s status as deputy; the ruling of the Supreme Court was based on the provisions of Articles 191st and 197th of the Constitution of the Republic. Machado did not recognized her destitution.
2014 Venezuelan protests
Machado has been one of the most visible leaders of the opposition demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro that have unleashed the country's worst civil disobedience in a decade. Machado helped turned sporadic student demonstrations that began in January into a nationwide protest movement. Venezuela's Congress on March 18, requested a criminal investigation of Machado for crimes including treason in relation to her involvement in anti-government protests. On March 20, Machado responded to legal accusations made against her saying, "In a dictatorship, the weaker the regime is, the greater the repression". After her destitution 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 demonstration was then cornered by the National Guard who prevented demonstrators from leaving and dispersed them with tear gas. Machado and many of her supporters were then affected from the tear gas fired at them.
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."
In 2014, Machado was nominated for the Sakharov Award for Human Rights Defenders of the European Parliament by the Union, Progress and Democracy "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, who authorities withdrew their seat for an alleged violation of the Constitution".
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- (Spanish) "María Corina Machado presenta su precandidatura a la Asamblea Nacional". El Universal (18 February 2010). Accessed 25 February 2010. Venezuela "es un pueblo de gente buena, decente, libre y los venezolanos no queremos vivir con violencia, con mas odios. Los venezolanos no queremos vivir con miedo". ... Aseguró que trabajará sin descanso para defender "el derecho a pensar libremente, para defender tu derecho a vivir sin miedo, a que nadie te imponga ideas, a un trabajo digno sin que importe tus ideologías políticas, a la propiedad de tus bienes y de que tus hijos se beneficien de ellos".
- (Spanish) Martinez, Eugenio G. "Hay que transformar las instituciones públicas". El Universal (22 February 2010). Accessed 25 February 2010. "María Corina Machado aspira a llegar a la Asamblea Nacional para comenzar a construir 'un gobierno responsable', desde un 'parlamento responsable' y lograr la transformación de las instituciones públicas, especialmente el CNE.
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- (Spanish) "Martinelli pide a la OEA que se ponga los "pantalones largos" y a Venezuela que libere a los presos". El Nacional. AFP. 24 March 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
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- (Spanish) TSJ de Venezuela ratificó medida contra exdiputada de la derecha María Machado TeleSUR (31 March 2014). Retrieved on 1 April 2014.
- (Spanish) Tribunal Supremo de Justicia de Venezuela declara procedente destitución de María Corina Machado NTN24 (31 March 2014). Retrieved on 1 April 2014.
- (Spanish) María Corina Machado (24 March 2014). "María Corina Machado". @MariaCorinaYA. Twitter. Retrieved 25 March 2014. "Aterrizando en Lima. Sr Cabello: yo SOY Diputada a la AN mientras el pueblo de Venezuela así lo quiera. #DictaduraEnLaAN ;"
- "María Corina: En dictadura, mientras más débil esté el régimen, mayor será la represión". La Patilla. 20 March 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
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- "Bush expressed concern about Venezuelan government's harassment against Súmate". El Universal, (1 June 2005). Accessed 24 February 2010.
- "Women the World Should Know". National Review Online (8 March 2006). Retrieved 1 July 2006.
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