Updated with results
By Ronald J. Morgan
In an unusual consensus between the United States and Latin America nations, criticism of Venezuela has been raised to a fever pitch ahead of the May 20th, presidential elections. Except for a few hard-core supporters such as Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba, Venezuela is isolated in Latin America and Europe.
Will the current Venezuelan government survive the growing whirlwind of international opposition? President Maduro said he would like to receive 10 million votes in the up coming election to cement his reelection and that he will be getting to work to solve the country’s economic problems as soon as he is reelected. 1.2,3
The candidate for re-election has described the economic problems, which include hyperinflation and food and medicine shortages as well as a growing exodus of Venezuelans as a right-wing conspiracy launched by the Venezuelan opposition and the United States.
Maduro is expected to be re-elected easily. But the vote is being faulted for a lack of opposition participation. The majority of the opposition groups are boycotting the elections. A boycott of the election was declared Feb. 22, 2018, by the main opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, known as MUD. Nevertheless, three candidates are running in the election in addition to Maduro. 4,5
Henri Falcon, 58, a former Chavez supporter and governor of Lara state, broke with the MUD opposition and entered the race under the Alianza para Progreso Party. He is running second in the polls and has promised to end hyperinflation by changing the economy to a dollar based currency.
Javier Bertucci, 48, Esperanza por la Cambio Party, is a former evangelical minister. He has called for a general opening of the economy and permitting of humanitarian assistance. He would encourage new investment and be friendly to the United States.
Reinaldo Quijada, 58, has been a spokesman for the PSUV under Hugo Chavez but later broke with Chavismo. He has called for a special economic ministry to find a way out of the economic crisis.
Luis Alejandro Ratti, 39, a fomer Chavez supporter turned opposition, has dropped out of the race and decided to back Henri Falcon.
Twelve Latin America nations making up the Lima Group, Canada, the European Community and the United States are rejecting the legitimacy of the May vote. 6.7
The completely polarized situation is expected to worsen in coming months following political changes expected to take place as a result of a new constitution to be completed by the Constitutional Assembly established Oct. 30, 2017.
Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos has accused Nicolas Maduro and the dominant PSUV party of establishing another Cuba-style government. Peruvian Writer Mario Vargas Llosa has gone on CNN and said the only solution to the problems of Venezuela is the “fall of the regime.” 8,9,10,10a,10b
The United States government has also called for Nicolas Maduro to resign.
Efforts at dialogue, which took place in the Dominican Republic during 2017, failed to ease the crisis.
The upcoming elections and new constitution are culminating a shift in democracy which began last year with a decision by the Venezuelan Supreme Court to limit the power of the opposition controlled General Assembly and a move to establish a constitutional convention without first holding a referendum. Protests, which occurred in 2017, lead to 130 deaths. 11
After briefly backing down following an uproar of protest over the Supreme Court granting itself legislating power, the opposition controlled congress was blocked again by the creation of the Constituent Assembly in July. The Assembly has granted itself legislating power.
Another factor causing concern about democracy was the stopping of a 2016, recall election by the Venezuelan Electoral Council in Oct. 2016.
The government is also in the midst of an economic crisis which includes hyperinflation, and shortages of critical foodstuffs and medicines. The U.N. High Commission on Refugees reports that 5,000 Venezuelans are leaving the country every day. Many have decided to reside in the neighboring countries of Colombia, Peru, Chile and Brazil. 12
The United States, Canada, and the European Union have turned to what are being called targeted economic sanctions against individuals accused of human rights violations to show international outrage at alleged Venezuelan government repression. Human rights violations are increasingly out of control opposition and human rights sources report. A March 6, 2018 report by the U.N. Human Rights Commission has reported hundreds of extrajudicial murders have occurred during protests and police operations. The ONG Foro Penal reports there are 498 political prisoners. Drug trafficking and corruption are also being alleged and prosecuted in several international jurisdictions. 13,14,15,16
How far to go in pressuring Venezuela to return to a more open democracy is under debate. The Lima Group is made up of twelve North and South American Countries (Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, Argentina, Brazil, Chile Colombia, Paraguay and Peru ) The group. which was established in August 2017, has called for cancellation of the May 20th vote. But the body has, so far, ruled out supporting an armed intervention. The United States under President Donald Trump has left the option open.
U.S. sanctions, which now include prohibitions which restrict Venezuela’s access to U.S. financial markets, could be expanded to an oil embargo. Venezuela is dependent on oil exports to survive.
A strategy to publicly criticize Venezuela has expanded to include a number of actions to exclude them from activities and organizations in Latin America.
These actions include calls by the United States to expel Venezuela from the Organization of American States, suspension of Venezuela´s membership rights in the Mercosur trade organization. And refusal to allow Venezuela to participate in the Summit of the Americas.
Six Latin American nations: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru have suspended their membership in the left founded UNASUR (Union de Naciones Suramericanas) organization for one year as result of a dispute over who should lead the organization. UNASUR was originally created to counter U.S. influence in Latin America but many of the nations now have pro U.S. governments. 17
The effort to confront Venezuela over its shortcomings in democracy, human rights, and economic failings began with a series of hearings and reports by Luis Alamagro. Secretary General of the Organization of American States. Recently ,Alamagro came out in favor of tougher oil sanctions against Venezuela and criticized the participation of Henri Falcon in the May 20th vote.
Venezuela will be increasingly isolated after the imposition of petroleum-related economic sanctions. It will have to depend on assistance from Russia and China. Both have already been loaning money and investing in the country. A U.S. Congressional Research Service report estimates that Russia has provide $11 billion in arms sales and made extensive investments in Venezuela’s energy business. China has provided $62.2 billion in assistance, according to the report.
Control over Venezuela has been increasingly concentrated in the Venezuelan military and a small group of persons in the executive branch. Recently, members of Venezuelan oil industry have been removed on corruption charges. They were replaced by members of the military.
This growing cold war-like effect is bringing calls for coups and even direct military intervention.
Recently, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry announced that the May 20, elections are a choice between two models: “On May 20, Venezuela will choose between two opposite country models: Sovereignty, equality & Homeland Plan vs. IMF, U.S. Dollar & submission to Trump. With Nicolas Maduro the people of Bolivar and Chavez will reaffirm its independence, heading for peace in (the) economy.”
Maduro has said: “We are defending our history and our dignity. We are defending the independence of Venezuela and the right to have a prosperous future which is just, solidary. Together everything is possible.” 18,19,20,21,22,23,24
Maduro has promised an economic revolution if he is reelected. And he has said he is the only one who can tackle the country’s problems. This spring, Venezuela launched the Petro crypto-currency in an effort to solve Venezuelan exchange and hard currency problems. President Trump has banned the Petro for purchase by Americans inside the U.S. 25, 26, 28
Results of the July 20th vote according to Wikipedia:
Nicolas Maduro, PSUV, 6,244,016 votes, 67.8%. Maduro won in all 23 states.
Henri Falcon, Alianza Para Progreso, 1,927,174 votes, 21.0%. no states won.
Javier Bertucci, Esperanza Para La Cambio, 983,140 votes, 19.8%, no states won.
The number of registered voters totaled: 20,759,809. Votes cast totalled 9,132, 655 for a 46.04% turnout. This number is being questioned by the oppostion who contend it was lower.
1. Venezuela has just announced an election — and it’s terrible news for democracy https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2018/01/24/venezuela-has-just-announced-an-election-and-its-terrible-news-for-democracy/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.60c6a57e3740
2, CRS Report Venezuela March 9, 2018 https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R44841.pdf
3. Venezuela’s Presidential Candidates and their Platforms https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Venezuelas-Presidential-Candidates-and-their-Platforms-20180425-0033.html
4. Why Venezuela’s opposition has been unable to effectively challenge Maduro https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/01/08/why-venezuelas-opposition-has-been-unable-to-effectively-challenge-maduro/
5. The Tragedy of the Venezuelan Opposition https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/venezuela/2018-01-05/tragedy-venezuelan-opposition
6. The Lima Group and the US Will Not Recognize Venezuela May 20 Election https://panampost.com/sabrina-martin/2018/04/16/the-lima-group-and-the-us-will-not-recognize-venezuela-may-20-elections/
7. EU heaps sanctions on Venezuela as isolation growshttp://money.cnn.com/2018/01/22/news/economy/eu-venezuela-sanctions/index.html
8. Mike Pence asegura que EE.UU. “no se quedará de brazos cruzados” ante Venezuelahttp://www.ntn24america.com/america-latina/venezuela/mike-pence-asegura-que-eeuu-no-se-quedara-de-brazos-cruzados-ante-venezuela
9. ¿Rumbo a una nueva Cuba?, por Andrés Oppenheimer https://elcomercio.pe/opinion/columnistas/venezuela-maduro-rumbo-nueva-cuba-andres-oppenheimer-noticia-516007
10. EEUU pide renuncia del presidente venezolano Nicolás Maduro https://es-us.noticias.yahoo.com/eeuu-pide-renuncia-del-presidente-venezolano-nicol-maduro-154715809.html
10a Antonio Ledezma: Crisis de Venezuela se resuelve solo con salida de Maduro http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/politica/antonio-ledezma-crisis-venezuela-resuelve-solo-con-salida-maduro_233651
10b. Borges sobre sesión de la OEA: “Vamos a lograr el cambio de Venezuela”http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/politica/borges-sobre-sesion-oea-vamos-lograr-cambio-venezuela_234033
11. Venezuela’s two legislatures https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/03/world/americas/venezuela-national-assembly-maduro.html?ref=oembed
12. 50,000 Venezuelans han llegado a Colombia http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/gda/50000-venezolanos-han-llegado-colombia-vispera-las-elecciones_234676
13. Human Rights Watch Venezuela Report https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/venezuela
14. High Commissioner’s global update of human rights concerns http://acnudh.org/en/high-commissioners-global-update-of-human-rights-concerns/
15. UN Human Rights Council Confronts Venezuela https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/02/un-human-rights-council-confronts-venezuela
16. Venezuela Drug Trafficking https://es.insightcrime.org/
17. Six countries suspend membership in UNASUR regional bloc http://indianexpress.com/article/world/six-countries-suspend-membership-in-unasur-regional-bloc/
18. Maduro vows economic change for Venezuela’s ‘rebirth’ before votehttps://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-election/maduro-vows-economic-change-for-venezuelas-rebirth-before-vote-idUSKCN1IG31S
19. Nicolas Maduro: Our Democracy Is About Protecting Our People https://venezuelanalysis.com/ANALYSIS/13792
20. Gobierno de Venezuela rechaza declaraciones de Mike Pompeo https://www.telesurtv.net/news/venezuela-rechaza-declaraciones-mike-pompeo-injerencia-eeuu-20180507-0026.html
21. Venezuela’s Maduro Officially Launches Petro, Overhauls Currency https://venezuelanalysis.com/News/13740
22. Nicolás Maduro: Al pueblo venezolano le pertenece el poder https://www.telesurtv.net/news/nicolas-maduro-campana-elecciones-venezuela-20180427-0030.html
23. Venezuela reconoce crisis pero acusa a la OEA de buscar ‘intervención’
http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/venezuela-reconocimiento-crisis-intervencion-nicolasmaduro.html#.Wui3FSBL1xA.twitterVenezuela Foreign Office https://twitter.com/CancilleriaVE/status/991710702648905730
24. Maduro advierte que tomará armas si llega un Gobierno que “entregue riquezas”https://es-us.noticias.yahoo.com/maduro-advierte-tomar%C3%A1-armas-llega-gobierno-entregue-riquezas-005700015.html
25. Nicolas Maduro´s Accelerating Revolution https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/12/11/nicolas-maduros-accelerating-revolution
26. Venezuela´s Fragile Revolution https://monthlyreview.org/2017/10/01/venezuelas-fragile-revolution/
27.Venezuela’s Petro Crypto currency https://venezuelanalysis.com/News/13740