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The next elections in Venezuela will also not be democratic

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The next elections in Venezuela will also not be democratic

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Venezuela’s electoral council announced on Tuesday that presidential elections will be held on July 28: it is not a random date, but the day of birth of Hugo Chávez, founder of the socialist party in power for 25 years. Nicolás Maduro, the current president, will seek re-election: he has been in office for 11 years, he is highly unpopular and his 2018 re-election was highly contested and favored by fraud. He doesn’t seem to want to allow real democratic competition on this occasion either.

It is not clear who will be able to oppose the outgoing president: María Corina Machado is the leader of the opposition, she is doing a long electoral campaign around the country, but she will not be able to be a candidate. A highly contested ruling banned her from holding public office for 15 years: according to the opposition and many international observers, she is the result of a politically motivated trial. By March 25, when the electoral lists close, the opposition parties will have to decide whether to replace her with another candidate, but they do not seem willing to do so.

In October 2023, the opposition organized primary elections to choose a united candidate to oppose Maduro: Machado won, with a very large majority and over two million voters, a number that surprised Maduro’s government itself. In January, however, the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela, controlled by Maduro, ratified his inhibition from participating in the elections, based on a series of accusations, especially corruption, mosse by the Controller General, a body that supervises a series of economic issues in public bodies.

Machado is a 56-year-old engineer from the “Vente Venezuela” party, which she founded in 2012. She is nicknamed the lady of steel (lady of steel) and in 2018 it was insert from the BBC in the list of the 100 most influential women in the world. She defines herself as a deeply anti-communist centrist liberal. She is highly appreciated for the firmness and resoluteness with which she related to the Maduro regime, criticizing it and remaining in the country when other opponents had left it (Maduro has greatly limited freedom of expression and civil rights in the country, and many dissidents I’m in prison). But in recent years you have also moderated and softened some of your positions, to broaden your consensus.

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María Corina Machado during a rally in January (AP Photo/Jesus Vargas)

Maduro’s government does not seem willing to annul Machado’s sentence, considered specious by all international observers. The multiple international pressures to obtain a democratic election have so far had no effect. The most pressing were those of the United States, which on April 18 could once again make the economic sanctions against Venezuela effective, which they eliminated last October.

The sanctions were decided after the institutional crisis following the 2018 elections, considered to be invalid according to international observers due to the many frauds and irregularities. In January 2019, Juan Guaidó, leader of the opposition and president of Parliament, declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela: almost 60 countries, including the United States and the democracies of the European Union, recognized him as legitimate. However, Maduro maintained control of the country, Guaidó was expelled from the country and then convicted of embezzling public funds: he now lives in the United States. In October 2023, an agreement between the opposition and the government for democratic elections convinced the United States to lift economic sanctions on gas, oil and gold.

The promised democratic openings, however, did not materialize, and after Machado’s exclusion from the next elections, the United States returned to threatening the reinstatement of sanctions, which will be reapplied from April 18. Meanwhile, denouncing the existence of a plan to assassinate him and to carry out a coup d’état, Maduro has increased repression and jailed opponents, activists and members of organizations that defend human rights. The leaders of some of the opposition parties were removed by courtreplaced by elements closer to the government, who represent only a superficial opposition (in Venezuela they are called scorpionsthat is, scorpions).

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A celebration of the anniversary of the death of Hugo Chávez (EPA/MIGUEL GUTIERREZ)

The Venezuelan government blocked German television’s cable broadcasts on Tuesday German wave, which had conducted an investigation into corruption in the country. The government of Venezuela also accused the New York Timesthe news agency Associated Press and the Spanish newspaper The country of bias, and threatened to ban their correspondents from covering the elections.

Hand in hand with the limitation of personal freedoms, since 2014 Venezuela has been experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis: between 2013 and 2021 the country’s GDP fell by 75 percent, the worst result in the last 50 years for a country not at war. They have left the country since 2014 almost eight million people, who emigrated mostly to the United States: they are over 25 percent of the total population. As of 2019, 90 percent of families live below the poverty line.

Also due to this economic situation, as well as political repression, Maduro’s popularity is very low in the country: independent polls estimate that in a democratic election he would not have the support of more than 20 percent of voters.

– Read also: Venezuela’s plans to annex Guayana Esequiba

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