Venezuelan opposition licks wounds after election defeat

For four years, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s opposition has refused to participate in elections that they believed would be rigged. But the strategy has changed. Last weekend, they sent candidates across the country to vote in the districts-and they failed miserably.

Maduro’s Revolutionary Socialist Party, PSUV, won at least 19 of 23 governorships (one result is still controversial) and more than 200 of 335 mayorships, including the mayor of Caracas. “Christmas comes early for us,” said Diosdado Cabello, the number two figure in the powerful Socialist Party.

As a result, the country’s fragmented opposition faces a difficult choice in solving the work needed by Maduro’s regime through the ballot box. It was also a setback for many international supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido, as the United States recognized him as the country’s legitimate interim president.

“The opposition, the United States, Europe, and most countries in Latin America are gradually accepting that democratization requires negotiation,” said Michael Penford, professor of political economy and governance at IESA at the Caracas School of Business. “The Venezuelan discussion must move in a feasible direction, not just in a desirable direction.”

The European Union sent an election observation mission to Venezuela for the first time in 15 years, and some critics said the decision provided legitimacy for voting. But there are still widespread criticisms internationally.

Isabel Santos, the chief observer of the EU Election Observation Mission in Venezuela, leaves a press conference in Caracas on Sunday © Federico Parra/AFP/Getty

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated: “The regime seriously misrepresented the procedures for determining the outcome of this election long before any vote.” New York-based Human Rights Watch highlighted the violations, threats and attacks on election day. Reports. “The country has no conditions for free and fair elections,” Said The organization’s Acting Deputy Director of the Americas, Tamara Taraciuk (Tamara Taraciuk).

The EU itself gave mixed reviews, stating that the vote was “organized under better electoral conditions than previous procedures,” but it condemned the government for “extensive use of national resources” during the election campaign and banned some candidates.

Maduro’s ruling party has also been helped by the severely divided opposition, which split the vote.

“If you add up the MUD and the nationwide votes in the league, [the two main non-government blocs] Then you will get a strong anti-government force,” said Luis Vicente León, head of Datanalisis, a local polling agency. “Together, they could have won more governorships. . “

More than 100 political parties participated in the vote, and ambitious names such as Progressive Advance, Hope for Change, Venezuela First, Procitizens and A New Era were littered on the ballot. More than 70,000 candidates ran for the election, most of them from small opposition groups. On average, there are 23 candidates for each of the 3,082 public positions offered.

“I find it a bit confusing,” 74-year-old Mayra Hernández said after voting in a middle-class community in eastern Caracas. “Every election seems to have more and more choices.”

Juan Guaidó speaks at a press conference in Caracas on Monday

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Monday that this is “not the time for a conceited struggle for political leadership.” ©Rayner Pena/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

In his speech after the election, Guaido acknowledged that there were some differences, but said that “this is not the time for political parties to fight, nor the time for themselves to fight for political leadership. Now is the time for reflection, unity, and for Venezuelans. Time for work.”

He and other anti-government figures emphasized that before the 2024 presidential election, “renovation”, “rebirth” and “reorganization” are needed.

Maryhen Jiménez, a Venezuelan political scientist and postdoctoral research assistant at Oxford University, said such comments are “we heard in the political leadership, but no one really said how they will do it”. “This is the task, it takes time.”

The United States and other countries, including the United Kingdom, must decide in January next year whether to recognize Guaidó as the legal interim president of Venezuela for a period of one year.

They have been thinking that he is like this since the beginning of 2019. At that time, with the support of the Trump administration, he boldly tried to overthrow Maduro, claiming that Maduro usurped the presidency by declaring victory in a false election.

The United States has strongly hinted that it will give Guay at least one more year. “I don’t think there will be any changes in this area,” said Brian Nichols, Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. Tell The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently.

But the problem is not clear. Privately, even figures in Guaido’s circle expressed their unease about the idea of ​​extending his term. The European Union has quietly given up recognizing him as interim president, and instead called him an important figure in the opposition.

When the UK considers this issue, it must also weigh the dispute over ownership between Maduro and Guaidó. Gold in the Bank of England vaultColombia and Brazil-the two most important immediate neighbors of Venezuela-may currently support Guaido, but this situation may change after their own elections in 2022.

At the same time, Maduro and an opposition delegation are still in Mexico to participate in Norwegian mediation talks to find a solution to the political deadlock.Maduro Interrupted the last round In protest against the extradition of one of his close ally to the United States, he said this week that “there are still no conditions for resuming negotiations.”

“This will be a long road to democratization, not the short, beautiful, and heroic road that many people believed three years ago,” Penfold said.

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