Venezuela tries to get out of the political quagmire in which it is installed this Sunday with elections in which, for the first time in five years, the main opposition parties participate. The anti-Chavistas, once the route to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro has been exhausted, have agreed to participate in regional and municipal elections in which they bear all the odds in the hope of gaining territorial power and paving the way to hold presidential elections in the next few years with certain democratic guarantees.
It has been given the name of Megaelecciones, since there are more than 3,000 positions at stake between governments, mayors and local councils. Maduro assures, with his usual bombast, that they are being held “in the best electoral system in the world.” In the last two calls, the presidential in 2018 and the legislative in 2020, he attended alone due to the little faith that his opponents had in the cleanliness of the process.
On this occasion, Chavismo has ceded to the opposition two of the five positions on the governing council of the National Elections Center (CNE), the organism that organizes it, and agreed to the presence of international observers from the EU, who within two days will issue a verdict.
This rapprochement between the government and the opposition can put the dialogue back on track in Mexico, where both parties were discussing, with the mediation of Norway, a way out of the country’s economic and political crisis. Venezuela has lost 80% of its economy in the last eight years, the biggest collapse of a country not immersed in a war. Five million Venezuelans have emigrated. Chavismo takes over all the institutions of power and opponents have very little room for maneuver to act on equal terms. Many have ended up in exile.
The dialogue was suspended due to the extradition to the United States of Alex Saab, an alleged figurehead of Chavismo. The idea, according to politicians on both sides, is to reactivate those talks after the elections. The ultimate goal is to normalize the country, rebuild institutions and organize presidential elections in a short time. Those of now are almost symbolic for many of the participants. The opposition, except in some historic anti-Chavista fiefdoms, such as the municipalities of Caracas, will not reap a good result, according to analysts.
The Chavistas, on the other hand, have relied on the entire state communication network to spread their message and with a larger budget in the campaigns. His people mobilized for sure. Chavismo gathered a vote after dissident factions of Chavismo had intervened that wanted to present themselves on their own. The opposition, on the other hand, is disintegrated, in each region there were several parties, and even about several of them there is the suspicion that they are financed by Chavismo. These parties are contemptuously known as scorpions.
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Former Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero arrived in Caracas on Saturday to accompany the process. The CNE has given him the rank of observer, but in his case he seems to have a higher status. Maduro received him at the Miraflores Palace, in a meeting that was broadcast on Venezuelan public television. Later, he met with other opposition parties. “For me it is a satisfaction that there are elections after helping Venezuela on the path to dialogue, peace, the ballot box and democracy. Today is a day in which we are going to advance, it is a before and after ”, said Zapatero in a meeting with the press.
Chavista leaders like Diosdado Cabello or Maduro himself have despised the observers. The president was ironic: “Can an international observer in any country in the world give a verdict on the validity of a genuinely national and sovereign process of a country? No, so they get off that cloud, Commission of the European Union ”.
Some opposition factions have also been critical of the mission, which they believe only legitimizes Maduro and prolongs his stay in power. “The last thing I want to be told is interference,” Zapatero replied about all this. “You have to help, but not impose or give lessons. The future of Venezuelans is theirs ”.
The head of the European Union’s electoral mission, the Portuguese Isabel Santos, said that the day was going normally. Venezuela had not accepted observers for 15 years. Of course, there were some problems, with the delay of hours in the opening of some schools. “Until now these are issues that have been solved in one way or another,” he explained.
The main obstacle to the process is apathy. Political polarization, almost a national invention, has vanished from day to day. The passion with which it was discussed has dropped several decibels. The coffee gatherings are extinct. Venezuelans seem to have little hope in these elections and many don’t even know very well what to do. “My mom asks me to vote, my dad doesn’t. Another friend yes. What a hell of a mess! ”, Says Jonathan Rodríguez, a hotel parking attendant.
The opposition has been calling for abstention in recent years as a method of passive protest, but on this occasion its majority parties called on people to take to the streets, even though they themselves did not fully trust the plurality of the lessons. Getting up yesterday morning and dressing for Sunday to vote was almost a leap of faith.
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