The United Socialist Party of Venezuela secured a resounding victory in Sunday’s regional and local elections, which were defined by the return of obstinate far right political parties to Venezuela’s democratic process after years of United States-backed destabilization efforts and violent regime-change plots.
Preliminary results from the country’s electoral authority showed Chavistas winning up to 20 of the 23 governorships that were up for grabs. The results cemented the ruling socialists’ dominance over a political opposition that has struggled to unite under a cohesive strategy and banner after years of violent political schemes that failed to oust President Nicolás Maduro from power despite the opposition having considerable bipartisan support from the U.S. political establishment, which maintains a punishing sanctions regime on the country.
Supporters and sympathizers of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela celebrated their victory, taking to streets even before the results were announced.
“We believe it is significant that we won 20 of 23 of the state contests — the math does not lie,” said Abril Viscaya, a political organizer and member of Frente Revolucionario Artístico Patria o Muerte (or “Homeland or Death Revolutionary Artistic Front”), in an interview with Truthout. “We must remain on this pathway of participation; we are a people that are not willing to surrender in the face of unilateral coercive measures by the United States government.”
These elections saw 3082 public office races, including 23 state governors and 335 local mayors. 253 regional legislators were also present. More than 300 international visitors were invited by the National Electoral Council, political parties in Venezuela, and delegations from the European Union (CEELA), the Carter Center, and the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts.
Martin Sereno, a regional lawmaker, was from the province of Misiones in Argentina and accompanied the electoral process. TruthoutThe vote was peacefully conducted and marked with a festive atmosphere. “We also saw many adults and seniors that came to vote, and that speaks to the enthusiasm of the people to be able to elect their representatives and authorities,” said Sereno.
Nicanor Moscoso is the head of CEELA delegation. praisedThe organization of the election stated in a press release that the process was in compliance with international standards.
Venezuela has a strict system to prevent fraud. Voters must present their identification and have their fingerprints scanned. Both must sign and leave a thumbprint onto a paper record. The country in South America is one of the few that have an entirely electronic voting system. This automatically generates a paper record which is then deposited into a box for audit. To oversee the process and count, political parties are invited to have a representative at each polling location.
Cybel González, one of the citizens tasked by the electoral authority with supervising a voter center in the municipality of Carrizal in the state of Miranda, told TruthoutThe process was smooth and uneventful in her center, with representatives of four political organizations present to examine the vote.
Carlos Ruiz Patiño, a voter in the city of Los Teques, just outside the capital of Caracas, said he found the organization of the election to have been excellent, despite the additional safety protocols implemented in light of the pandemic.“Going out to vote is the most important thing,” said Ruiz.
The End of Violence in Venezuelan Politics
Venezuela, which has a history full of sabotage by political parties interested in disrupting elections and rumors relating to potential violence, mobilized a large number of state security force members to provide security at the polling centers.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, visiting one of the polling locations in the Coche Parish in Caracas, told TruthoutThere had been no major incidents in the country. “The people are the ones who will be the protagonists on this day, and they are doing it. The people of Venezuela have always demonstrated their civic duty,” said Padrino.
Certain elements of the political opposition, particularly those close to self-declared “interim” President Juan Guaidó and his Popular Will Party, have in the recent past staged months-long violent street protests known as guarimbas. Guaidó himself, along with his mentor, former Chacao Municipality Mayor Leopoldo López, unsuccessfully tried to stage a military coup.
The insurrectionary strategy proved unsuccessful, being largely rejected by the Venezuelan people, leading Guaidó to tepidly endorse a return to an electoral strategy, with other hardline parties more emphatically calling for an end to violent tactics.
“The people of Venezuela have said ‘no’ to that violence and have come out in massive numbers to vote,” said Padrino. “They have said ‘no’ to interventionism, ‘no’ to political violence, ‘yes’ to democracy, ‘yes’ to harmony, ‘yes’ to coexistence, and this is another example of what the Venezuelan people want.”
A large portion of the opposition had opted for the insurrectionary strategy up until recently and called on their supporters not to vote in the elections over the past three cycles. This played a role as a factor in the drop in voter turnout.
With nearly all political parties returning, attention was given to the voter turnout during these elections. The National Electoral Council reported a turnout close to 42 percent. This figure is comparable to previous regional elections in Venezuela, and is notable for being higher than the turnout for presidential elections in Chile, which also held their vote on Sunday.
The returnComplex negotiations between the government, opposition resulted in the formation of the hardline political opposition. The EU sent an election observation mission to Venezuela to observe the elections. It was not present since 2006.
The participation by nearly 100 EU observers is widely considered a first step for the lifting EU sanctions, which together with U.S. sanctions, have significantly contributed to rising poverty and hunger in the country as the government struggles to sell oil, Venezuela’s single most important export commodity.
However, there was tension between Venezuelan politicians and Josep Borrel, the high representative from the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. President Maduro and representatives of the moderate opposition Democratic Alliance stressed that Venezuelan elections were sovereign processes and that their legitimacy does not come from the EU or its mission.
Those tensions largely dissipated during Sunday’s vote with the head of the EU mission, Isabel Santos, saying the vote was proceeding “calmly” and Maduro noting that the mission had respectedThe Venezuelan constitution. The EU is expected release its full report next week.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the vote, saying that the Venezuelan government “deprived Venezuelans yet again of their right to participate in a free and fair electoral process” but did not point to any flaws in the voting process. Instead, he alleged the government “grossly skewed the process.”
Blinken also reaffirmed U.S. support for Popular Will opposition leader Guaidó’s claim to the presidency and gave no indication there would be any easing of sanctions. The statementMaduro was also blamed. Maduro is well-known for his infighting. This was evident in an incident that occurred just days before the vote. assaulting a rival candidate in the state of Bolívar.
The disappointing result for the opposition and the U.S.’s affirmation of support for Guaidó’s claim despite a lack of support inside Venezuela paints a grim picture for the opposition’s future. With part of the opposition betting on participating in elections and the Guaidó camp clinging to its claim to the presidency despite not exercising any real power, the opposition continues to send contradictory messages to its supporters.
The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (USPV) has emerged stronger from this contest.