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Gideon Long in Caracas

For four years the opposition to Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro refused to take part in elections that they believed would be rigged. But in a change of strategy, last weekend they fielded candidates nationwide in regional voting — and lost heavily.

Maduro’s revolutionary socialist party PSUV won at least 19 of the 23 governorships on offer (one result is still in dispute) and more than 200 of the 335 mayoral posts, including the mayoralty of Caracas. “Christmas has come early for us,” said Diosdado Cabello, the powerful socialist party number 2.

The outcome leaves hard choices for the country’s fragmented opposition about the work needed to tackle Maduro’s regime via the ballot box. It is also a setback for many of the international backers of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who the US recognises as the country’s legitimate interim president.