Venezuela: ‘The economic war has caused huge damage to the country and its people’

‘Venezuelans have time and again shown the world how much they value democracy and free elections’, said Venezuelan activist Eulalia Reyes de Whitney.

Campaigning is well underway for Venezuela’s May 20 national vote to elect the nation’s president and representatives to municipal councils and state legislatures. The elections are being held in the context of the ongoing political polarisation and economic crisis that have wracked the nation over the past few years.

Incumbent President Nicolás Maduro, who has pledged to defend and strengthen the pro-poor Bolivarian Revolution initiated by his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, is currently leading in the polls. His main competitor is Henri Falcon, a former pro-Chávez governor who joined the opposition in 2010.

Fearing a Maduro victory, the United States — which on May 7 announced a new round of sanctions on Venezuela — and the European Union are threatening to not recognise the results. This is despite having demanded Maduro call early elections only months ago.

Venezuela’s main opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), has followed suit: having been involved in dialogue talks with the government late last year that included the issue of early elections, the MUD is now calling for a voter boycott and nationwide protests to denounce “fraud”, four days before the election.

However, with election day approaching, divisions within the opposition have opened up, with some sectors swinging behind Falcon’s campaign. Among them are a bloc of opposition MPs that have created the “Let’s Change” platform and former MUD secretary general, Jesus Chuo Torrealba.

Presidential candidate Luis Alejandro Ratti announced on May 8 he was stepping down to support Falcon’s campaign. A meeting between Falcon and the other main opposition candidate, former evangelical pastor Javier Bertucci, was held the following day to discuss the possibility of a united candidate.

Results of a Hinterlace poll released in early May indicate that participation in the elections will be about 63%.

To get a sense of the election campaign and situation in Venezuela today, Federico Fuentes spoke to Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) Brisbane co-convenor Eulalia Reyes de Whitney, who has been back in her home country for the past several months.

Read interview here