Whither Venezuela? Author and commentator Federico Fuentes on the Presidential election

Perth Indymedia – Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela has come under increasing attack from both Western governments and the international capitalist press. With prices doubling every month and poverty reportedly on the rise after years of social improvement for the mass of the people, the Maduro administration also faces fierce criticism from at least some elements of the left.

Journalist, political commentator and co-author of Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions: The Future of Twenty-First Century Socialism, Federico Fuentes, addressed the question of whether this latest election was illegitimate or even rigged, as claimed by much of the Western press.

Listen to interview here

Venezuela’s Maduro Wins Reelection with 67.7% of Vote, Falcon Cries Fraud

President Nicolas Maduro addresses supporters gathered at Miraflores Palace on Sunday evening. (Reuters)
President Nicolas Maduro addresses supporters gathered at Miraflores Palace on Sunday evening. (Reuters)

Lucas Koerner, Caracas, May 21, 2018 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was elected to a second term Sunday with 6.2 million votes, beating out his closest rival Henri Falcon, who garnered just 1.9 million votes.

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the result shortly after 10pm Sunday evening, revealing that Maduro had won with 67.79 percent of all votes cast, ahead of opposition contenders Henri Falcon, Javier Bertucci, and Reinaldo Quijada, who won 21.01, 10.82, and 0.39 percent, respectively.

Despite a boycott by the main opposition parties of the right-wing Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition, turnout was 46 percent, with 9,085,629 of Venezuela’s 20,527,571 registered voters casting ballots.

Speaking Sunday evening, CNE President Tibisay Lucena called for respecting the outcome of the vote, which she said reflects “the will of Venezuelans.”

“The people have decided,” she told the nation.

On Monday an international observer mission led by the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America (CEELA), comprised of former top electoral officials from throughout the region, said the election was clean.

“Technically, up until today, we have not observed any element that could disqualify the electoral process,” said CEELA President Nicanor Moscoso in a press conference.

“We can emphasize that these elections must be recognized, because they are the result of the will of the Venezuelan people,” he added.

Prior to Sunday, CEELA observers participated in all fourteen of the pre-election audits conducted by the CNE in conjunction with all participating political parties, in addition to overseeing the “hot audit” of 54.4 percent of all voting machines mandatorily carried out on election day.

Faced with a clear defeat at the polls on Sunday night, opposition presidential frontrunner Henri Falcon refused to recognize the results.

Prior to the announcement of the official results, the former Lara State governor gave a press conference, in which he called the vote “illegitimate,” demanding new elections in October.

“We do not recognize this electoral process, and we brand it as illegitimate,” he stated.

Henri Falcón

@HenriFalconLara

Desconocemos este proceso electoral y lo calificamos como ilegítimo; lo digo con responsabilidad y no por eso voy a salir mañana del país.

 

In particular, Falcon accused the government of violating a series of electoral guarantees agreed to in March through the use of “red points”, which are kiosks set up by United Socialist Party activists near electoral centers where pro-government voters are encouraged to check in after voting for the purposes of exit polling.

The opposition candidate did not, however, specify how the use of “red points”, which has been a standard feature of the ruling party’s mobilization strategy for years, affected the election result.

Falcon did denounce abstention, which was being actively promoted by the MUD, as one of the causes of his defeat, saying that the boycott had “left behind an extraordinary opportunity.”

Evangelical candidate to the presidency Javier Bertucci likewise initially rejected the results “on account of the red points,” which he said were “bribing people with food and money.”

For his part, Maduro called on his opponents to recognize the election result and join him in a dialogue for “national reconciliation.”

“I call on all of the presidential candidates who participated in the election of May 20… to a meeting for dialogue in order to establish a constructive agenda,” he said on Monday.

The call for dialogue was seconded by former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, who offered to mediate any future talks.

Zapatero, who facilitated the previous round of government-opposition dialogue in the Dominican Republic in January, said that Sunday’s vote had gone forward “peacefully” and opposition candidates should direct any complaints they have regarding the electoral process through the appropriate institution channels.

Responding to the outcome on Monday, US Vice President Mike Pence called the election “a sham.”

“Venezuela’s election was a sham ­— neither free nor fair. The illegitimate result of this fake process is a further blow to the proud democratic tradition of Venezuela,” he stated. The vice president did not, however, cite evidence to support the allegations of fraud.

Following Venezuela’s announcement of presidential elections this past February, the Trump administration has repeatedly made clear its refusal to recognize the vote, despite the Maduro government agreeing to a series of electoral guarantees with opposition parties, including moving up the date to May 20, among other agreements.

Sunday’s result was similarly rejected by the bloc of regional right-leaning governments known as the “Lima Group,” which includes Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Santa Lucia.

In a statement released Monday, the group vowed to recall their ambassadors to Caracas for consultations and present a new resolution on Venezuela at the next meeting of the Organization of American States.

The 14-member bloc additionally resolved to “coordinate actions in order that international and regional financial organisms do not grant loans to the Venezuelan government” in a bid to increase the pressure on the re-elected Maduro administration.

Meanwhile, Maduro’s victory was recognized by a number of close Venezuelan allies, including Cuba, Bolivia, El Salvador, Iran, Russia, and Nicaragua.

“The parties involved must respect the decision of the Venezuelan people,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang at a press conference in Beijing on Monday.

Similarly, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Latin America director, Alexander Schetinin, called the outcome “irreversible” and denounced Washington and other governments “who openly called for a boycott of the vote.”

“The elections have been held and their results have an irreversible character: two-thirds of the votes went to the current president of the country, Nicolás Maduro,” he concluded.

Maduro will be formally sworn in on January 10, 2019, when his six-year term officially expires.

US, Allies Continue Interventionist Agenda After Venezuela Vote

MexicoMexico’s Foreign Minister speaks alongside U.S. Deputy Secretary of State (L) during a G20 Meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers in Argentina, May 21, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

TeleSUR English – The U.S.-alligned Lima Group and the EU are following in Washington’s footsteps with aggressive policies against Venezuela.

After incumbent Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro received an overwhelming majority of the votes in Sunday’s elections, the United States and its allies slammed the electoral process and called for further measures aimed at keeping up with the interventionist policies to topple the Bolivarian revolution in the name of “democracy” and “humanitarian intervention.”

The U.S. State Department had announced earlier Monday that President Donald Trump put in place new economic sanctions aimed at Venezuela in an executive order banning U.S. citizens from being involved in sales of that country’s accounts related to oil and other assets.

“Today’s executive order closes another avenue for corruption that we have observed being used: it denies corrupt Venezuelan officials the ability to improperly value and sell off public assets in return for kickbacks,” a senior administration official told reporters.

“Venezuela’s election was a sham – neither free nor fair,” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said shortly before the sanctions order. “The United States will not sit idly by as Venezuela crumbles and the misery of their brave people continues … The Maduro regime must allow humanitarian aid into Venezuela and must allow its people to be heard,” he said.

 

In a separate statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States “will take swift economic and diplomatic actions to support the restoration of their democracy.” He did not elaborate.

And in a series of tweets written in English and Spanish, the infamous Senator Marco Rubio called the Venezuelan elections a “fraud” and even said there was no electoral exit while the Bolivarian revolution is in power, echoing previously declarations in which he directly called for a military coup. “The only mafia in Venezuela is its regime. Today is the beginning of its end,” tweeted Rubio.

Across the Atlantic, U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson issued a statement Monday saying he was “disappointed” by a “neither free nor fair” electoral process that has “further eroded Venezuelan democracy.”

“The condemnation of the international community is loud and clear. We shall work closely with our EU and regional partners in the coming weeks to determine how we can continue to support a political resolution,” said Johnson.

The controversial foreign secretary claims he was “deeply concerned by the man-made humanitarian and economic crisis, which is growing worse by the day” and urged the Venezuelan government to take immediate action and let international humanitarian aid to deliver food and medicines, but didn’t mention anything about the increasing sanctions on the Bolivarian revolution that have hampered their efforts to stabilize the economy.

Also in Europe, the Spanish Prime Minister, who has led EU efforts against Venezuela, expressed his rejection to Sunday’s elections. “Venezuela’s electoral process has not respected the most basic democratic standards. Spain and its European partners will study appropriate measures,” tweeted Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Meanwhile Venezuela’s neighbors led by right-wing governments issued a statement under the banner of the so-called Lima Group said it did not recognize the vote and would downgrade diplomatic relations with Venezuela.

The group deplored Venezuela’s “grave humanitarian situation” and vowed to help crack down on corruption and block loans to the government.