As parliamentary elections are getting close in Venezuela, Government violence and intimidation intensify. This is far from coincidental as polls indicate that 80 % of Venezuelans are not supporting the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV). According to recent polls the opposition should get 103 representatives in the National Assembly while the ruling party only 46.
For a party that believes it holds the key of a revolutionary process, accepting the democratic process is a contradiction in terms.
Therefore, it can only appeal to fraud on Election Day and strong violence aimed at intimidating voters and opposition leaders.
Indeed, on November 25, the Secretary General of the opposition party Accion Democratica in the State of Guarico, Luis Manuel Diaz, was assassinated during a political event. Lilian Tintori, wife of imprisoned opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, also attended the event.
The assassination seems to have been the result of the action of a criminal, many believe served as a part of a strike force for the Venezuelan government. It looks like the fact that Ms. Tintori was there was not a coincidence as the assassination served as a warning for her to stop campaigning on behalf of her husband. Likewise, there have also been several attacks against members of the opposition coalition, Mesa de Unidad Democratica (MUD).
Furthermore, in a recent interview he gave to the pro-Government TV program “La Hojilla”, President Maduro did not sound like someone who is trying to flirt with voters but rather a leader who is threatening them. Mr. Maduro pointed out “ What would happen if I get mad and proceed to mobilize millions of people and the armed forces?” What would happen to this country then?”
Given his threatening posture and the fact that the Electoral Commission is in the hands of the executive, Maduro is most likely planning a major fraud. Since it is clear from the polls and the obvious expressions of discontent that a victory of the ruling party is not logical, the government realistically expects massive protests and refusals to recognize the rigged results.
Can the Venezuelan ruling party be effectively stopped?
Something seems to be happening in the rest of the region for the first time in more than a decade that shows signs of cracks in the pro-Venezuela approach of the region. First, the defeat of one of Maduro’s most important allies, the Argentinean Front for Victory Party at the hands of Mauricio Macri. Macri already stated his anti-Maduro position suggesting Venezuela should be expelled from the South American common market, Mercosur over the imprisonment of Leopoldo Lopez.
In addition, and to the surprise of many including us, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, declared that the assassination of Mr. Diaz in Venezuela is not an isolated episode but part of a policy aimed at intimidating the opposition. Almagro also pointed out that with this assassination the entire democratic system has been wounded.
Almagro had been the foreign minister of Uruguay under President Jose Mujica, a strong supporter of Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro. Mujica immediately cut his ties to Almagro over the latter’s courageous and honest declarations. Mr. Maduro responded to Almagro by calling him “trash”. The Prime Minister of Peru, Pedro Cateriano, rejected Maduro’s insults to Almagro. Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos followed suit.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), an ally of the Venezuelan government repudiated the assassination but did not imply that the Government of Venezuela was involved as Almagro did. The president of Brazil, who is facing a major crisis now, did not comment on the incident.
The United States condemned the killing and “called on the Venezuelan government to protect all political candidates”. Echoing Almagro, State Department spokesman John Kirby pointed out that “Campaigns of fear, violence, and intimidation have no place in democracy.”
If the Obama Administration believes that Maduro is intimidating the opposition, it better take a foreign policy page from a similar event in the past. The United States ceased to support the government of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines as the people and the opposition refused to recognize the results of fraudulent elections. A few years earlier Benigno Aquino, a key opposition leader was assassinated by Marcos’s troops as he returned from American exile to challenge Marcos. Since then, American officials stopped supporting Marcos and began preparing for his collapse. The Reagan Administration sided with Cory Aquino, the widow of the assassinated leader and opposition candidate, as huge fraud by Mr. Marcos was being denounced.
If we take into account that the Philippines and Mr. Marcos were U.S. allies, how should we expect an enemy like Venezuela to be treated by the United States? Most recently a Venezuelan diplomat posted in Iraq denounced a report that the Venezuelan government has issued passports and sold them to individuals in the Middle East, particularly to members of Hezbollah. However, it is known that close to 50,000 Venezuelan passports were issued or sold which makes it plausible that members of ISIS received Venezuelan passports, particularly if these passports were sold for between 5,000 and 12, 000 U.S. dollars.
Venezuelan leaders are also drug traffickers. This includes top political and military leaders such as the President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello and Jose Carvajal, a former chief of military intelligence. Early in November, U.S. authorities arrested an adopted son and a nephew of Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, on charges that they conspired to transport 800 kilograms of cocaine to the U.S.
It would be unwise and counter to our principles for the American government to recognize a victory by the ruling party. Rather, the United States should support the people of Venezuela when they go to the streets to protest a fraudulent election and listen to their appeals for international support. In addition, the U.S. should reinforce and enlarge sanctions on the entire Venezuelan government on grounds of violations of human rights, support for terrorism and other criminal activities.
American diplomacy should include talking to other Latin American leaders, reminding them of their commitment to democracy in the region and the spirit of the democratic charter of the OAS which all these countries have signed. This is a big test not only for Maduro, but for the entire region as well as for the moral authority of the United States and its’ credibility in the world.