As Maduro holds another electoral sham, the international community must reject his bid to consolidate power

While legitimate elections are the best path forward for the Venezuelan people, the international community should not be fooled by Maduro’s latest scheme to stay in power

Germania Rodriguez Poleo
Sunday 06 December 2020 11:53
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Mr Guaidó and his US-backed opposition say authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro will not allow a fair vote
Mr Guaidó and his US-backed opposition say authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro will not allow a fair vote
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As the Venezuelan regime holds its latest illegitimate electoral circus on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro prepares to fully consolidate his power over the nation.

The opposition, led by current National Assembly president Juan Guaidó, has decided to boycott the process. Most of the international community, including the United States, have deemed these elections a sham, as they lack the conditions to be considered minimally competitive and thus legitimate. 

The 2018 presidential elections, where Maduro claimed victory, were also widely seen as illegitimate, as leading opposition figures were persecuted and barred from running. The US, the UK, and more than 50 other countries, instead eventually recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president, following a constitutional crisis where Maduro created his own legislative body to side-pass the opposition-led National Assembly. 

In Venezuela, elections aren’t stolen by rigging the numbers, necessarily, but by making it impossible for the other side to win. For years, elections in Venezuela have been rigged before election day. 

Elections in the country have been unfair at best and fraudulent at worst since at least 2004, when Hugo Chavez asked for a list of people who voted against him in a referendum, known as the “Tascon List”, so his government could go after them, particularly those who worked for state companies, such as oil company PDVSA.  Approximately half a million public employees were fired and many others were denied passports or identification cards, according to Human Rights Watch

Most Venezuelans, exhausted by the daily task of surviving and disappointed by both chavistas and the establishment opposition, are likely to sit out the latest unfair election day, handing Maduro the last independent body standing: the National Assembly. 

By now Maduro has banned most opposition parties from existence, and has even taken over two other major ones. His regime has also jailed or exiled most recognised opposition leaders and shut down any critical media outlets. 

All candidates on the 6 December ballot are either part of the ruling party, the PSUV, or part of an “opposition” crafted by the regime once the traditional opposition parties started refusing to participate in fraudulent popular consults. The regime refused to change its all-chavista electoral monitoring body, and replaced international watchers with “international companions”, such as Maduro ally and ex-president of Ecuador Rafael Correa.

Faced with an international community that refuses to recognise the fraud, the regime is so desperate for this electoral process to appear legitimate, they even faked a CNN en Español mic at one of the candidate’s press conferences to make it look as if major outlets were covering the campaigns. 

In a shocking display of modern-day despotism to get people to go out to vote, the regime’s number two, Diosdado Cabello, issued a threat to Venezuelans while campaigning on live television. “Whoever doesn’t vote, doesn’t eat. There is no food for whoever doesn’t vote,” said Cabello, one of many candidates on Sunday accused of drug-trafficking in the US.

It’s been widely reported how the chavista regime uses its food programs such as CLAP to guarantee complacency and votes from the poor. This control over food is one of the regime’s best tools to control the population, particularly the increasingly hungry masses. 

In the run-up to the elections, the regime has clamped down on independent organisations working to ease the hunger, including NGOs that feed the poorest neighbourhoods. In one of their cruelest showings yet, regime forces last month raided the offices and froze the bank accounts of food charity Feed the Solidarity, as reported by the New York Times.

It’s important for the regime to be the only source of food for the most needy as it cements its dictatorship: one of the PSUV’s campaign promises has been that the new National Assembly will ban NGOs from receiving international funds. 

And the regime has tapped their strongest players for their last push towards absolute rule. Former vice-presidents and siblings Jorge and Delcy Rodriguez, and even Maduro’s own wife and son are expected to get legislative seats.

Many have criticised the opposition for boycotting these elections, and thus giving up the last institution not controlled by the ruling party. However, what this analysis misses is that the opposition has tried this already, and even when they have managed to win unfair elections, the regime has simply ignored the people’s will.

This is what happened after the opposition won a majority in the legislative body in 2015. First, Maduro didn’t allow the body to implement legislation; then he created his own constituent assembly to replace the national assembly.

Despite massive abstention and lack of recognition from the international community, Maduro and his cronies will claim legitimacy after sweeping a majority of seats in parliament. Given they are going to elections without serious opponents, Maduro will likely now control all branches of power in Venezuela, joining Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Raul Castro in Cuba, the only other leaders in the region to enjoy total control over their nations.

While these elections won’t be widely-recognized internationally, they will have consequences. Making things harder for Guaidó and the opposition is the fact that the US and more 50 other nations recognised him as interim president because he was the legitimate leader of the National Assembly, but that Assembly’s mandate runs out on 3 January.

Despite his campaign’s Florida-focused promises, it’s unlikely that president Trump will make any move in Venezuela before his own mandate is over, and it will be up to Joe Biden to decide what the next strategy in Venezuela will be and whether it will include Guaidó as the legitimate leader of the devastated nation.

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