Maduro's election farce; Continuity

AME2344. Caracas (Venezuela), 03/25/2024.- Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro shows off his government plan “The Plan of the Homeland” after making official his candidacy for the presidential election on July 28. In power for a third term, this Monday at the headquarters of the National Electoral Council (CNE) in Caracas (Venezuela). After participating in a rally called by the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in support of his entry, the Chavista leader went to the headquarters of the electoral commission. Then, until the expiry of the period established in the schedule for filing nominations. EFE/ Rainer Pena R.

For some uninitiated, it was a fascinating sight. On March 25, President Nicolás Maduro appeared jubilantly at the headquarters of the National Electoral Council in Caracas to present himself as a candidate in Venezuela's presidential election scheduled for July 28.

By Economist

Outside, a crowd of unruly supporters gathered – the bus convoy that brought them into the city was hidden from state television coverage. Inside, the candidate, dressed in a white tracksuit emblazoned with the colors of the Venezuelan flag, greeted election officials before delivering a fiery speech in which he described his opposition as a group of nepotistic oligarchs. His wife and son, both influential politicians, were seated in the front row. “The people have the power,” the president declared.

But that's not the case. If he keeps it, Maduro will no longer be in power. The unpopular autocrat has overseen a devastating recession that has seen a quarter of the population migrate over the past decade. His government continues because it has trampled on Venezuela's democracy. His previous re-election, in 2018, was a travesty, in which it was necessary to prevent several opposition leaders from contesting. The competition will be held again this year.

In a fair fight, President María Corina will face Machado. Machado, a conservative and longtime critic of the government, won 93% of the vote in October's opposition primary. Last year, a poll gave him 70% support, compared to 8.3% for Maduro. However, the Supreme Court, which is under the control of the regime, has imposed a ban on holding political office for 15 years. To overcome this obstacle, on March 22, the former deputy and a coalition of parties supporting him nominated an alternative candidate to replace him.

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Their candidate was Corina Yoris, 80, a distinguished philosophy professor. A grandmother of seven and three immigrant children, her story could resonate with almost the entire country. And there was another reason why it seemed an inspired choice: Of course even the Maduro regime, with its reputation for cruelty, would be reluctant to jail the beloved grandmother.

Instead, political parties that supported Yorís blocked him from registering his candidacy on the Electoral Council's computer before midnight on March 25, the same day Maduro celebrated his effortless registration. The next day, the Election Commission confirmed the registration of 12 more candidates. Most can be classified as regime loyalists or completely harmless false enemies.

The only person with the slightest possibility of mounting a challenge — perhaps suspiciously — was able to register minutes before the deadline, the governor of Julia state, Manuel Rosales. He had already contested the 2006 presidential election and lost to the late Hugo Chávez. This time he did not even participate in the opposition primaries. His party describes him as a “man of conversation”. Many in the opposition fear he is a puppet, planted to lend legitimacy to a rigged election that Maduro will clearly win. “He dropped his pants a long time ago,” says one Julia resident. Yoris calls him “Judas”. Machado refuses to support him. “The regime has chosen its candidates,” he replied.

Although Yoris was blocked, he managed to register a genuine opposition candidate. Edmundo González, a former ambassador, is apparently an interim candidate who could be replaced by another person until April 20.

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In the midst of this chaos, some fed-up Venezuelans are resorting to sly humor. After the release of the initial list of candidates, all men, a picture appeared on social networks in which they all sported identical Maduro moustaches. But for those at the forefront of resistance against a regime asserting its authoritarian power, the events of recent months are no joke.

On March 20, the Attorney General issued arrest warrants for Machado's campaign manager and eight members of his team. One of them, Dignora Hernandez, a political consultant, said, “Help! Please, no!”, as she was forcibly placed in the back of a car by state security police in Caracas. Nothing was heard from her after that. Many of the workers who have not yet been detained are believed to have taken refuge in the Argentine embassy. On March 26, the regime cut off electricity to the ambassador's home, prompting Argentina to file an official complaint.

Maduro's faith in democracy is becoming more and more absurd by the day. He hailed the election victory of Russian President Vladimir Putin as “an impeccable election process” that “demonstrated democracy in an exemplary way.” Maduro's autocracy has also drawn criticism from the leftist governments of Brazil and Colombia, generally sympathetic to him. On March 26, the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern about the “difficulties faced by the majority factions of the opposition” when registering candidates. Brazil announced that it was following the electoral process with concern. The regime was quick to accuse both governments of “dramatic interventions” in Venezuelan affairs.

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Esmond Harmon

"Entrepreneur. Social media advocate. Amateur travel guru. Freelance introvert. Thinker."

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