A divided opposition and government abuses paved the way to Hugo Chavez’s successor

In sharp contrast with recent elections in Venezuela, these days have been relatively quiet in Caracas and other major cities, despite the accusations of fraud against the Bolivarian government of Nicolás Maduro
A divided opposition and government abuses paved the way to Hugo Chavez’s successor
Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro takes oath as re-elected President - Photo: Marco Bello/REUTERS
25/05/2018
16:21
Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
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In sharp contrast with recent elections in Venezuela, these days have been relatively quiet in Caracas and other major cities, despite the accusations of fraud against the Bolivarian government of Nicolás Maduro.

There are several reasons for this: the opposition was divided again, its leaders were barred from running and turnout decreased to 46%—the lowest level in two decades—over 20 million citizens registered to vote.

A sense of apathy and resignation is in the air after Maduro, 55, clinched another six-year term in the Miraflores Palace beating 68% to 21% former Lara state governor Henri Falcón, once a staunch Hugo Chávez supporter who broke with the ruling Socialist United Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in 2010 and who back in 2013 was the campaign chief for opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, now banned from holding office for 15 years due to “administrative irregularities” during his tenure as governor of Miranda state.

This year, Henri Falcón again broke ranks with the opposition bloc Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), which called to boycott the election and decided to run as an independent candidate.

In an op-ed written for The New York Times, he stressed that “electoral boycotts almost never work. In country after country, opposition forces that abandoned the field of electoral competition have lost ground and allowed rulers to consolidate power”.

A former military as the late Chávez, Falcón admitted that the electoral conditions were unfair, yet he said that the alternatives were more international sanctions or an Army coup.

After polls had closed, he declared that he would not recognize the process because of irregularities including the placing of 13,000 pro-government stands near to polling stations, and added that abstention promoted by MUD had also harmed his cause.

Another popular opposition leader, Leopoldo López, co-founder with Capriles in 2000 of right-wing party Justice First, is facing house arrest.

In 2015 he was found guilty of public incitement to violence through subliminal messages and was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison.
 

Artículo

Venezuela's Maduro re-elected amid outcry over the election

Venezuela’s leftist leader Nicolás Maduro won a new six-year term on Sunday, but his main rivals disavowed the election alleging massive irregularities in a process critics decried as a farce propping up a dictatorship
Venezuela's Maduro re-elected amid outcry over the electionVenezuela's Maduro re-elected amid outcry over the election

Premature and without conditions

In a statement, the coalition MUD, that includes the Brave People Alliance founded by former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, said the election was premature and lacked proper conditions, and called it “a show by the regime to give an impression of legitimacy that it does not have in the midst of people’s suffering.”

Ledezma was detained in 2015 after accusations made by Maduro about his role in a supposed United States plan to overthrow the government. Under house arrest, he fled into Colombia and is now living in Spain.

On February, the European Parliament said that it would not recognize the election until several conditions are met, such as the release of political prisoners.

For its part, the Organization of American States (OAS) called on the Venezuelan government to cancel the presidential vote (Sunday’s process included state and municipal legislative elections).

Due to failed negotiations between the regime and MUD, the elections were initially scheduled for December 2017, then changed to April 22, then delayed again to May 20.
 
In power since Chávez’s unexpected death five years ago, Maduro used food subsidies distributed through “Fatherland Cards” to ensure victory, in a moment when the minimum wage buys only half a kilo of meat and the national food production covers only 20% of consumption, compared to 70% in 2008.

Reacting after Washington and the Lima Group slapped new sanctions against his government, Maduro announced on Tuesday that he is expelling the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela, Chargé d’Affaires Todd Robinson and his deputy Brian Naranjo for conspiration.

“I say to the government of Donald Trump, to the government of the Ku Klux Klan, I say not with sanctions, not with threats, you did not stop the elections”, Maduro declared in a televised address.

For now, he can still count on the support from Cuba, Russia, China, Bolivia, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, among other countries which sent observers to the election.
 

Artículo

Growing international pressure over Venezuela after Maduro’s reelection

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Edited by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen

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