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|
|Born||7 October 1967
(ran for Justice First)
|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.
In 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, 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 – the 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".
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. 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.
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".
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 2011, Machado announced the launch of her pre-candidacy for the 2012 presidential primary elections. According to the Los Angeles Times, "[b]oth 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".
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."
- (Spanish) Machado, María Corina. Mi experiencia. Es ahora. María Corina. Accessed 25 April 2010.
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- (Spanish) "María Corina Machado lanzó su precandidatura a la AN". El Nacional (18 February 2010). Accessed 25 February 2010.
- (Spanish) Divulgación Elecciones Parlamentarias: Estado Miranda. Consejo Nacional Electoral, República Bolivariana de Venezuela. Accessed 1 October 2010.
- (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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- "Candidate María Corina Machado: Venezuela said no to communism". El Universal (27 September 2010). Accessed 1 October 2010.
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- "Venezuela's opposition picks Chavez's challenger". USA today (The Associated Press). 12 February 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- President George W. Bush welcomes Maria Corina Machado. The White House, (May 2005). Retrieved 18 August 2006.
- "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.
- "Yale University President Announces 2009 Yale World Fellows." M2 PressWIRE (17 April 2009), Yale University: New Haven Connecticut. From LexisNexis.