Venezuela has held its most balanced elections in 20 years. The European Union observation mission has concluded in a preliminary report that the process has improved compared to the previous three due to the participation of the main opposition parties. “This is key to rebuilding political life,” said Isabel Santos, the head of the mission. However, the document maintains that important structural deficiencies still persist, such as the null judicial independence that exists in the country, the use by Chavistas of state resources to campaign, and unequal access to the media.
Santos believes that there have been advances that allow us to be optimistic for the future. He maintains that there has been a more balanced electoral administration by appointing two non-Chavista rectors at a table of five, that there have been numerous audits throughout the process and that the electoral registry has been updated. In addition, it considers that the counting system, subjected to audits, was reliable. In his opinion, there was no way to alter the result.
The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, had called a press conference at the same time that the mission was to announce its conclusions. He canceled it first thing in the morning. Chavismo has been ambiguous about the presence of the observers, sometimes celebrating that they were here and other times hinting that they were a clear interference that affected Venezuelan independence. On Maduro’s criticism, Santos said his was a wrong position that he hopes he will change once he reads the report.
“Have you ever felt intimidated by the president?” Santos was asked.
“I am not intimidated.”
The campaign has been marked by the use of state resources for the benefit of the Chavista candidates. The National Electoral Center (CNE), the body that organizes the elections, does not have the tools to sanction this abuse. “This shows that the CNE must be strengthened in its sanctioning powers,” recommended Santos. Maduro himself has had a file opened for inviting a Chavista candidate for governor to a presidential event. When the fine reaches you, the count will be done, the charges will be distributed and everything will be over.
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The EU declaration maintains that the Venezuelan electoral legal framework complies with most international standards. However, it carries some key deficiencies that call into question the cleanliness of the process. For example, there is a law that allows the comptroller general to suspend the participation of a candidate through an administrative process. Chavismo has done it with opposition politicians, but the most curious thing is that it has applied this subterfuge with a good number of allies who wanted to participate on their own in the elections, disintegrating from the ruling party. This was the case of the leaders of the Communist Party of Venezuela. “The lack of judicial independence and disrespect for the rule of law adversely affected equality of conditions and equity and transparency.”
Venezuela held last Sunday the first elections in five years in which the main opposition parties have participated. For the first time in 15 there was an international observation in a flawed system after 22 years of the Bolivarian revolution. The opponents came forward with reluctance and knowing that they were competing in unequal conditions, although they were convinced that the electoral route is the way to return the country to the path of democracy. Maduro stumbled in power in 2019, when an interim president was appointed who was backed by the United States and a good part of the international community, but he managed to overcome that obstacle and his departure from power does not seem imminent. Since he arrived at the Miraflores Palace, after the death of Hugo Chávez, the country’s economy has contracted by 80% and five million Venezuelans have left the country, including many independent journalists and anti-Chavez political leaders.
The United States made harsh statements on Monday against the elections. The State Department issued a statement in which it assured that the Maduro regime had deprived Venezuelans of participating in a free and fair process. That vision is the part of the opposition, especially those in exile, that believes that Chavismo is not going to abandon power for good or allow elections to be guaranteed. With all this as a tidal wave, the conclusion of the EU was vital to validate the process or to overturn it. “The report cannot be the object of political instrumentalization. It is a technical approach to the electoral process and the electoral moment experienced, a useful tool to improve processes in the country. We will fight any interested attempt to interpret this declaration in favor of partisan interests with which we have nothing to do, ”Santos concluded.
Information in development.
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