President Maduro (second from left) in a meeting with Venevision representatives (agencies)
Merida – Yesterday Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro met with representatives of private television stations Venevision and Televen. Together they discussed the media’s role in maintaining an environment of “peace, tolerance and living together”.
Last Wednesday Maduro called on the two stations to form an “alliance for life” and to stop “promoting disloyalty, betrayal, and drug-trafficking”.
After the meeting Venevision said in a formal statement that they had discussed a communication campaign called “Zero Violence”, which would contribute to the “movement for peace and life” and reducing violence in Venezuela.
Venevision is Venezuela’s largest television network, and is available over cable, free terrestrial, and in the United States through Univision. Until 2005 it opposed Hugo Chavez, but from then on its coverage has been more even-handed. It is owned by one of Venezuela’s richest citizens, Gustavo Cisneros, and includes a variety of programming, from news, to children’s shows, music, and movies.
Televen has the second highest audience, after Venevision, and focuses on soap operas, sports, and talk shows. Camero Comunicaciones owns half of it, and Cadena Capriles owns the other half. It has a smaller proportion of nationally produced shows than Venevision.
According to Maduro, Televen’s representatives also agreed to the proposal to reinforce values “for peace and life”. He said they agreed to increase national production of series and documentaries, in order to “support our artists… and promote national values”.
After the two meetings, Vice-president Jorge Arreaza also stated that they had agreed to work together on a “new model of television… where content supporting peace and stability is generated”.
Maduro also announced yesterday that he would meet with the new owners of opposition news station Globovision, saying “I don’t know them but I’m going to meet with them”. He said they had requested the meeting with him, but so far there are no further details.
Maracaibo – Representatives from the electoral campaign of ex-presidential candidate Henrique Capriles formally contested last month’s elections before Venezuela’s Supreme Court today.
The legal procedure submitted to the court has the objective of annulling April’s presidential elections in which Henrique Capriles lost to Nicolas Maduro by less than 2 points, and to allow for the elections to be repeated.
“We submitted this demand to contest the elections due to fraud and bias [of the electoral body],” said Gerardo Fernández, the attorney for the Capriles campaign.
“We want to show that the electoral system is broken: the campaign, the permanent issues in the electoral registry, the abuse of state resources, and all of the irregularities on election day,” he said.
The Capriles campaign reportedly submitted a 180-page document to Venezuela’s Supreme Court, and also requested that two of the Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from ruling on the case.
They are demanding that Judges Jhannett Maria Madriz and Malaquias Gil not be allowed to be involved in the case for having already given their opinion of the fraud claims, and for “their close ties to Nicolas Maduro”.
It is now up to Venezuela’s Supreme Court to decide if the challenge is justified, and if so, to establish the timeframe for the evidence to be presented to the court.
Fernandez said they would present evidence from before, during, and after the elections, including the “unbalanced” campaign, the “irregularities” on election day, and the auditing process afterwards.
“We are contesting the activities before the April 14th elections, the electoral process on the 14th, and the activities that occurred after that day,” he said.
Capriles has refused to accept the results, and alleged fraud after Maduro’s victory was announced on the night of April 14th.
However, he has yet to provide any solid evidence that would indicate any fraud actually took place.
After demanding a recount from the National Electoral Council (CNE), Capriles seemed to agree to an extended audit of nearly 100 percent of the ballot boxes. Capriles subsequently rejected this audit when the CNE would not include an audit of the voter registry.
Capriles demanded a verification of all the signatures and fingerprints that voters place in the voter registry at the time of voting, but the CNE has said this would be impossible, as there are more than 15 million signatures and fingerprints that would have to be evaluated.
The CNE and other government officials have said Capriles lacks any proof, and have accused the Capriles campaign of making “impossible” demands in an attempt to claim the institutions are not democratic when their requests are denied.
Capriles has already stated that he doesn’t expect a “fair” ruling from Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which he accuses of being controlled by the government.
But the Capriles campaign has said they will go through all domestic institutions before taking their complaints before international institutions.
- Auditing Process Begins in Venezuela amid Opposition Claims of “Lies” and “Persecution” (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Venezuela’s Electoral Council Says Capriles Lacks Proof of Fraud (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Venezuelan Government Accuses Capriles of Making “Impossible” Demands (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Venezuela’s Electoral Council Approves Audit of 100 Percent of Votes (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Capriles Falsifies Evidence in Order to Claim Fraud in Venezuela’s Elections (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Mérida – Venezuela and Cuba signed 51 bilateral agreements related to energy management and social programmes in areas including healthcare, education and recreation this past weekend and pledged to spend $2 billion on bilateral social development projects this year.
The agreements were signed during Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s visit to Cuba over the weekend.
“We came to ratify a strategic…[and] historical alliance,” Maduro told Cuban press.
Details of the bilateral agreements are yet to be released, though Maduro described the deals as focusing on “social development”.
After meeting with Maduro, Castro told the press that the agreements reaffirm Cuba’s “unyielding will to continue co-operation in solidarity with Venezuela, determined to share our fate with the heroic Venezuelan people”.
The agreements represent Cuba’s largest source of foreign capital, according to AFP.
In his first trip abroad since being sworn in as Venezuela’s new president, Nicolas Maduro also met with former Cuban president Fidel Castro.
“I spent over five hours with Fidel, talking, sharing memories of Comandante Chavez, remembering how he and Chavez had built this alliance, which is more than a strategic partnership,” Maduro stated, according to the Havana Times.
The visit was criticised by Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who during his recent election bid advocated for cutting most ties with Cuba.
“Our great lackey is travelling to Havana to get instructions from his boss,” he tweeted on Saturday.
Venezuela is Cuba’s largest trade partner, currently providing the island nation with more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day. In exchange, over 30,000 Cuban medical personnel work in Venezuela.
During his election campaign, Capriles maintained his long standing policy that if elected, “not another drop of oil” would be sent to Cuba.
However, his views on the doctors are less consistent; alternating between offering them citizenship and accusing them of being spies involved in a “Castro-communist” plot and threatening them with deportation.
Maduro indicated that his administration would maintain continuity with former president Hugo Chavez’s Cuba policy, stating that the two countries “will continue working together”.
According to the Uruguayan newspaper La Republica, Maduro’s next international trip will be to Uruguay, where he is expected to meet with the country’s leftist president Jose Mujica.
The newspaper cites diplomatic sources as stating that the trip will take place around May 7, and will be part of a regional tour.
However, La Republica’s report on Maduro’s travel plans have not been officially confirmed by the Venezuelan government.
A delegation of National Lawyers Guild (NLG) election monitors visited polling sites in five Venezuelan states on April 14 and found that the Venezuelan presidential election process was fair, transparent, participatory, and well-organized.
With over 78 percent voter turnout, Nicolas Maduro Moros was declared Venezuela’s new president with a 50.66 percent share of the 99.12 percent of votes counted.
“The U.S. would do well to incorporate some of the security checks and practices that are routine in Venezuela to improve both the level of participation and the credibility of our elections,” said NLG attorney Robin Alexander. She added, “The six polls I visited in the state of Carabobo were calm and well-organized and lines were short.”
The five-member NLG delegation formed part of a larger team of over 130 people, which included former presidents of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, electoral commission members, journalists, and representatives of human rights organizations from across the globe. Election monitors traveled to polling places throughout the country on Election Day.
The NLG delegation found the following: advanced voting procedures that prevent fraud through multiple fingerprint and voter ID certifications; accurate and efficient digital and manual vote calculation; active participation by party witnesses and national and international observers.
In addition, the NLG monitors found a reliable system in which 54 percent of all votes are randomly audited on Election Day. NLG monitors witnessed one such audit in Caracas in which the paper ballots matched perfectly with the electronic votes.
As a U.S. organization, the NLG emphasizes that the margin of victory for Nicolas Maduro, while small, is comparable to close elections in the U.S., such as the margins of victory for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and for George W. Bush in 2004.
The NLG calls upon the U.S. to honor the Venezuelan election as the nations of the world honor U.S. elections without question. Moreover, as recognized by Jimmy Carter, Venezuela’s election infrastructure, with its secure electronic system backed by paper ballots, is “the best in the world,” and therefore deserves at least as much respect as our own.
As NLG member and international human rights law professor Daniel Kovalik states: “In the end, it is the Venezuelans who must decide their own future and leaders and the U.S., in the interest of democracy, must honor that decision.”
NLG President + 1 212 679 5100, ext. 15
On the ground in Venezuela:
Nicole Phillips Esq.,
+1 510 715 255, email@example.com
Camilo A. Romero,
+1 510 717 4227
+1 412 335 6442
+1 602 796 7034
+1 412 716 1696
- Capriles Falsifies Evidence in Order to Claim Fraud in Venezuela’s Elections
- Protests, Disturbances, and Violence Continue in Venezuela, General Strike a “Failure”
In November 2004, 50.7% of the American population voted for George W. Bush; 48.3% voted for John Kerry.
The headline in the New York Times read: “After a Tense Night, Bush Spends the Day Basking in Victory.”
The piece began as follows:
After a long night of tension that gave way to a morning of jubilation, President Bush claimed his victory on Wednesday afternoon, praising Senator John Kerry for waging a spirited campaign and pledging to reach out to his opponent’s supporters in an effort to heal the bitter partisan divide.
“America has spoken, and I’m humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens,” Mr. Bush told a victory party that was reconstituted 10 hours after it broke up inconclusively in the predawn hours. “With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans, and I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as your president.”
Flanked by his wife, Laura, and their daughters, Barbara and Jenna, and Vice President Dick Cheney and his family, Mr. Bush stood smiling and relaxed on a stage at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to thank the campaign team that helped him to a decisive victory, outline his agenda and, 78 days before his second inauguration, speak somewhat wistfully of eventually returning home to Texas.
It was not a landslide, or a re-alignment, or even a seismic shock. But it was decisive, and it is impossible to read President Bush’s re-election with larger Republican majorities in both houses of Congress as anything other than the clearest confirmation yet that this is a center-right country – divided yes, but with an undisputed majority united behind his leadership.
Fast forward to 2013. Tonight, 50.6% of the Venezuelan population voted for Chavez’s successor Nicolas Maduro; 49.1% voted for his opponent Henrique Capriles.
The Times headline this time: “Maduro Narrowly Wins Venezuelan Presidency.”
And here’s how the article begins:
Nicolás Maduro, the acting president and handpicked political heir to Hugo Chávez, narrowly won election to serve the remainder of Mr. Chávez’s six-year term as president of Venezuela, officials said late Sunday. He defeated Henrique Capriles Radonski, a state governor who ran strongly against Mr. Chávez in October.
Election authorities said that with more than 99 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Maduro had 50.6 percent to Mr. Capriles’s 49.1 percent. The turnout, while strong, appeared to be somewhat below the record levels seen in October, a sign that Mr. Maduro may not enjoy the same depth of passionate popular support that Mr. Chávez did.
Update (1 am)
Nathan Tankus just pointed out on Twitter another point of comparison I missed: “I love the focus on ‘hand picked successor’. Pretty sure ‘son of former president’ sounds more nepotistic.” Nathan then updated that the phrase was “hand picked political heir,” which makes the comparison even starker!
Maracaibo – Nicolas Maduro has won the Venezuelan presidential election with 50.66 percent of the vote against 49.07 percent for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. Maduro gave a victory speech immediately after, while Capriles initially refused to recognize the results.
The “first bulletin” results were announced by the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, at around 11:20 p.m. Venezuelan time, with 99.12 percent of the votes totaled, enough to give Maduro an irreversible victory.
Nicolas Maduro received a total of 7,505,338 votes, against 7,270,403 for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, a difference of 234,935 votes. Total turnout was 78.71 percent of the electorate.
Given the closeness of the vote, Maduro’s speech focused mostly on assuring the validity of his victory, and the reliability of the electoral body.
“If they want to do an audit, then do an audit. We have complete trust in our electoral body,” he said from outside the presidential palace.
“We have the only electoral body in the world in which 54 percent of the total votes are audited,” he added.
Maduro also noted that in other countries presidents often win by slim margins, and that it is recognized as a victory, and said to opposition sectors that “this is no reason to create violence”.
CNE Rector Vicente Díaz immediately requested that 100 percent of the electoral results be audited in order to make the results more transparent.
“This tight result has lead me to request that the CNE conduct a citizens’ audit of 100 percent of the ballot boxes. The country needs it,” he said.
Maduro immediately accepted the request, and assured there was no problem in doing a complete audit.
“Let’s do it! No problem. Perhaps they will find that my victory will be larger,” he said.
Maduro supporters had gathered at the presidential palace to await the results, and remained to celebrate the victory after Maduro’s speech.
Meanwhile, opposition supporters awaited in the Caracas neighborhood of Bello Monte to hear their candidate’s concession speech.
Initial comments from various opposition leaders appeared to indicate that they were confident they had won, and that they would not accept defeat.
Capriles wrote on his Twitter account hours before the official results were released that the government was planning to “change the results”.
“We warn the country and the world that there is the intention to change the will [of the people],” he wrote.
Upon the release of the official results, Capriles held a press conference in which he claimed that the victory was “illegitimate” and refused to recognize Maduro’s victory until all ballots are audited.
“I don’t make pacts with those who are corrupt or illegitimate,” said Capriles, assuring he would not agree to accept the results.
“The one who has been defeated is you and everything you represent,” he said referring to Nicolas Maduro.
Capriles claimed that the results are not truly representative of the Venezuelan population, and assured that the Maduro government was “completely illegitimate”.
Venezuelan democracy is about to be tested, once again. On April 14th, just weeks after the regrettable and untimely death of widely popular Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias (1954 – 2013), voters will decide who is to govern during the 2013-2019 period Chavez was elected to late last year. For the country’s socialist majority, who secured Chavez 8.1 million votes (55%) in the 2012 election, Interim President Nicolas Maduro is their candidate. Meanwhile, the US-backed opposition, who for years assured voters that “Chavismo without Chavez” was next to impossible, has again chosen right-wing politician Henrique Capriles Radonski to represent them at the ballot box.
Having lost to Chavez by over a million votes, Capriles is now running on a campaign aimed at dividing pro-Chavez forces and discrediting the country’s democratic institutions, something his political career depends on.
BORN INTO WEALTH
Son of Cristina Radonski Bocheneck and Henrique Capriles Garcia, 40-year old Capriles comes from one of Venezuela’s wealthiest families. The Radonskis own, the country’s largest chain of private movie theaters, while the Capriles own numerous private media outlets (Cadena Capriles) and are said to have important investments in industrial and real estate holdings. Among other things, his parents’ wealth allowed Capriles to study law at Caracas’ private Andres Bello Catholic University and participate in numerous international student exchange programs in Italy and the United States.
In 1995, a freshly-graduated Capriles dove into Venezuelan politics by acting as legal counsel to his cousin and then lawmaker Armando Capriles. Serving his cousin during the closing years (1995-1998) of the so-called Fourth Republic (1958-1998), Capriles got his taste for politics just as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez won the ﬁrst (1998) of many electoral victories to come.
Eager to represent his family and social class at a time of heated national debate surrounding President Chavez’s proposal for a Constitutional Assembly, Capriles accepted a backdoor nomination from Venezuela’s right-wing party, Social Christian Democrats (Copei), and won a seat in the ﬁnal Congress (1998) convened during the Fourth Republic.
Not exactly illegal, Copei placed Caracas-based Capriles on the ballot to represent Maracaibo, capital of Zulia, where the party had a strong base of support at the time. A trained lawyer, he was sure to respect existing electoral laws by renting an apartment in Maracaibo during the course of the election.
According to investigative journalist Eva Golinger, in 2001 Capriles’ nascent Justice First party was the principal beneﬁciary of funds spent in Venezuela by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and International Republican Institute (IRI). That year alone, the latter spent $340,000 “training” members of Justice First and others of the country’s anti-Chavez minority on, among other things, “external party communication and coalition building”.
From 2000 to 2008, Capriles served as Mayor of the wealthy eastern Caracas neighborhood of Baruta. During the short-lived 2002 coup against President Chavez, anti-communist protestors gathered outside the Cuban embassy (located in Baruta), cutting both water and electricity and threatening to storm the building. In response to requests by embassy staff for police protection, Capriles joined the protestors and forced his way into the embassy by climbing over its perimeter walls.
As Golinger notes in her book, The Chavez Code, Capriles “violated diplomatic law by forcing entry into the embassy, where he attempted to persuade Cuban Ambassador German Sanchez Otero to turn in Vice President Diosdado Cabello and other Chavez government ofﬁcials whom the opposition believed were taking refuge in the embassy”.
“Though Ambassador Sanchez Otero permitted Capriles Radonski on the premises to engage in dialogue”, explains Golinger, “he made it clear that the actions were violating diplomatic law”. Capriles “attempted to force a search of the inside of the embassy by threatening the ambassador that the situation would only worsen if a full search were not allowed. When the ambassador stood ﬁrm, Capriles Radonski left the embassy”.
The right-wing mayor allowed protests to continue as they were, abandoning the Cuban diplomats and their request for help. Fortunately, for embassy staff and Venezuelan democracy, massive pro-Chavez demonstrations reversed the short-lived coup before things got worse.
FROM GOVERNOR TO “LEADER”
Taking advantage of his family’s wealth, access to the press, and personal contacts, in 2008 Capriles moved up the political ladder by winning the governorship of Miranda, a state with some 2.6 million inhabitants. In 2012, the opposition coalition chose Capriles to “lead” their failed attempt to defeat President Chavez at the ballot box.
The Washington backed Capriles lost the election by over a million votes but kept his political career alive by returning to win Miranda’s gubernatorial race just two months later in a regional election that saw socialist candidates win 20 out of 23 governorships.
On March 10th, as the Venezuelan people were in the midst of mourning the loss of President Chavez, Capriles held a rushed press conference in which he accused Interim President Nicolas Maduro and others in Venezuela’s socialist leadership of “lying to the public about Chavez’s health”. Among other things, he claimed Chavez’s family and the country’s National Electoral Commission (CNE) had “planned with milli-metric detail” the March 5th announcement of Chavez’s passing as well as the now pending April 14th election. His strategy, it seems, is to try to divide the pro-Chavez majority while preparing for what is sure to be another electoral defeat.
Though he currently is the opposition’s most well-known elected ofﬁcial, a recent poll by Venezuela-based Datanalisis found only 34.8% of voters intend to vote for Capriles. The same poll found 49.2% of voters intend to elect socialist candidate Nicolas Maduro. The International Consulting Service (ICS) found 58.2% of voters intend to vote for Maduro, 17% more than the 40.5% that plan to elect Capriles. The Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis (IVAD) found the gap to be even wider, with 53.8% of voters planning to vote for Maduro and 31.6% for Capriles, a difference of 22%.
CARACAS — With the presidential election less than two weeks away, Venezuelan Acting President Nicolas Maduro led opposition leader Henrique Capriles by 20 percent in latest polls.
According to results released Monday by local pollster company Hinterlaces, Maduro, late President Hugo Chavez’s political heir, would get 55 percent of the vote against 35 percent for Capriles, who was defeated by Chavez in last year’s election.
Asked about their projection of the two candidates’ winning chances, 61 percent people chose Maduro and only 22 percent opted for Capriles.
The survey, conducted in March among 1,100 people across the country, has a 3-percent margin of error, the company said.
The official pollster GIS XXI on Monday released a similar poll result, predicting that Maduro would win the election with 55.3 percent of the vote.
Another survey, also conducted by the Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis in March, showed that 53.8 percent of the 1,200 respondents would vote for Maduro, compared with 30.8 percent for Capriles.
The presidential election campaign will officially begin on Tuesday.
- Polls Show Maduro Leading Capriles for Venezuelan Presidential Elections – Aletho News
- Maduro Counters Campaign to Discredit Venezuelan Electoral System – Aletho News
- Capriles rails against acting president’s ‘heirs of Hitler’ statement - Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Mérida – The presidential candidate of the Bolivarian Revolution, Nicolas Maduro, yesterday counter-attacked the opposition’s campaign to discredit Venezuela’s electoral system ahead of the 14 April presidential election.
In recent days the Venezuelan opposition and allied media have been criticising the 14 April presidential election as not being held in “fair and transparent” conditions, in an apparent effort to discredit the Venezuelan electoral system ahead of the vote.
This campaign appears to have intensified following comments made on Friday 15 March by the US’s Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who said that it would be “a little difficult” for “open, fair, and transparent elections” to be held on 14 April.
The conservative opposition has also attempted to reach out to international opinion, with Diego Arria, a former Venezuelan diplomat, writing in the Huffington Post that Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) is “no more than a tool of the regime [sic: Venezuelan government] to maintain its power”.
This discourse marks a break with the opposition’s more conciliatory approach toward Venezuela’s electoral system last year, when the opposition MUD coalition asked the CNE to organise the opposition’s own internal elections, calling the CNE “an excellent example of democratic institutions in the country”.
Polling evidence suggests that the opposition is likely to lose the April election, called after the death of President Hugo Chavez on 5 March. Four polls released by private Venezuelan firms in recent days have given Nicolas Maduro an advantage over the opposition’s candidate Henrique Capriles of between 14 and 22%.
Yesterday, Nicolas Maduro, who is currently interim president, hit back at the opposition’s campaign to discredit the CNE, claiming that it was a strategy being used in light of the opposition’s “clear defeat” on 14 April.
Maduro repeated the claims of other pro-government figures, stating that the “ultra-right wing” within the opposition is also considering the withdrawal of Capriles’ candidacy “as a way of fleeing and then crying out [to the international community]”.
He further argued that his rival Capriles is caught between the opposition’s radical wing, who want to withdraw from the race in order to discredit the election, and the “apparently democratic” wing that wants to maintain an electoral strategy.
The interim president said the Venezuelan electoral system, “guarantees the sovereign decision of the voters” and that the campaign to discredit the CNE “will not favour” the opposition.
Directly addressing the opposition, Maduro said, “If you stay [in the electoral race]; welcome. We’re headed towards a great triumph, that’s how I feel. If you go, not so welcome. We will [still] have a great victory and we’ll maintain the political stability of the country; of that you can be sure”.
The difference in opinion within the opposition toward the electoral system has also become apparent in recent comments made to media.
Hard-line opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado called the Venezuelan government a “neo-dictatorial regime” with a “democratic façade” in an interview yesterday with conservative paper El Universal. She further said the CNE was full of “tricks and irregularities”.
Meanwhile, the president of opposition party COPEI, Roberto Enríquez, said in an interview today that the opposition “recognises” the accuracy of the Venezuelan electoral system.
However, he added, “Elections in Venezuela, like in all democratic systems, are and have to be perfectible”.
Today the CNE signed an agreement with the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) confirming that UNASUR will send an electoral accompaniment mission to Venezuela ahead of the 14 April election.
The mission’s aim, according to the head of UNASUR’s electoral council, Francisco Távara Córdova, is “to witness the electoral process within the framework of solidarity, cooperation and respect for sovereignty, with the aim of generating shared knowledge and experience in electoral matters”.
The mission’s head will likely be Argentine Carlos Alvarez, who led the UNASUR electoral mission to Venezuela for the October 2012 presidential election.
Several Venezuelan electoral NGO’s have also been invited by the CNE to observe the upcoming election.
- Opposition Intensifies Campaign against Venezuelan Electoral System (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Venezuelan Electoral Authority Rejects U.S. Government Statements (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Venezuela says far-right US plot targeted opposition leader Capriles (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Polls Show Maduro Leading Capriles for Venezuelan Presidential Elections (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Mérida – Police, pro-government and opposition students clashed on the streets of Caracas yesterday amid a growing opposition campaign against Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE).
The CNE is currently preparing for the April 14 presidential election, following the death of late President Hugo Chavez on March 5. Polls suggest that the candidate representing the Bolivarian revolution, Nicolas Maduro, is set to win the election handily against opposition rival Henrique Capriles.
In recent days opposition media and politicians have stepped up a campaign of criticism against the CNE and its president, Tibisay Lucena, alleging that the upcoming election will not be held under “fair” conditions.
Yesterday, opposition students presented CNE officials with a list of demands for a “transparent and fair” election. These included scrapping Venezuela’s automated SAE voting system, eliminating the use of fingerprints in the voting process, and ending the involvement of civilian militias in the election-day public security operation.
According to pro-government newspaper Ciudad CCS, the students were prevented by national police from reaching the CNE’s headquarters due to their violent behaviour. Meanwhile, pro-government students held a counter-protest on the other side of police lines.
The paper reports that opposition students threw stones and flammable devices, before trying a “charge” through police lines, which was contained. According to Venezuelan media, four protestors were injured.
However, conflicting versions have emerged of the day, with private media reporting that the opposition students were “ambushed” by the pro-government demonstrators, with police then intervening to keep the two groups apart.
Also yesterday, representatives of Henrique Capriles’ campaign met with CNE officials to discuss thirteen proposals the opposition argues are necessary for a “fair” presidential election. Four of these proposals were accepted by the CNE.
Opposition spokesperson, Carlos Vecchio, said that the deal was “not enough” for the presidential election to be “fair and transparent”. The CNE has since agreed to further study the remaining proposals.
The criticisms of the CNE build upon previous declarations by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who accused the CNE’s president, Tibisay Lucena, of being favourable to the government. “We’re not being herded anywhere,” he warned her in relation to CNE rules on presidential candidate registrations.
Further, on Tuesday conservative daily El Nacional published a stinging editorial on Lucena titled “Lady Liar”, in which the CNE head was branded as “foolish” and “absent minded,” while public attention was drawn to her state of health.
The editorial, written by far-right journalist Miguel Henrique Otero, also called the CNE “a team chosen and armed by power [the government] to ambush the voter at every bend in the road”.
The opposition’s discourse toward the CNE in recent weeks is similar to comments made last Friday by the US’s Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who said that it would be “a little difficult” for “open, fair, and transparent elections” to be held on April 14.
The comments from the opposition, in particular El Nacional’s editorial, have generated anger and condemnation by pro-government and more moderate circles of opinion.
Top CNE official Vicente Diaz, considered to be favourable to the opposition, called El Nacional’s editorial “deplorable and inconsiderate”.
During the presidential election last October the CNE received glowing praise from international electoral observation groups.
Former US president Jimmy Carter, head of the Carter Centre NGO, commented at the time, “Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world”.
He also praised Venezuela’s automated SAE voting system, which utilises manual and electronic security checks to prevent fraudulent voting.
Meanwhile, the electoral observation mission from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) strongly endorsed Venezuela’s electoral system after the October 7 vote.
“Venezuela has given an exemplary demonstration of what the functioning of democracy is and has taught a lesson to the world, and this is important,” said the mission’s head, Argentine Carlos Alvarez.
Regarding the opposition’s recent criticisms of the CNE and Venezuela’s electoral system, pro-government media expert Oscar Lloreda claimed that this formed part of the opposition’s strategy due to the unlikelihood of them winning on April 14.
Speaking on Latin American news channel Telesur, he argued, “They [the opposition] are calling on people to vote, but on the other hand they’re creating the conditions to not recognise the results in the case of a defeat”.
- Venezuela says far-right US plot targeted opposition leader Capriles (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Polls Show Maduro Leading Capriles for Venezuelan Presidential Elections (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Venezuelan Electoral Authority Rejects U.S. Government Statements (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Merida – Private poll company Datanalisis has found that interim president Nicolas Maduro has a 14% lead over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, with 16% of respondents still undecided, or intending to vote for other candidates.
Yesterday Barclays/Datanalisis released a report in which 65% of respondents believe that pro-Chavez candidate Nicolas Maduro will win the 14 April presidential elections.
Barclays is a British multinational financial services company, and Datanalisis is a private Venezuelan company, whose poll results generally favour the opposition, but also tend to be closer to final election outcomes than some other private polling companies.
According to their poll, 49.2% of respondents intend to vote for Maduro, while 34.8% said they will vote for opposition contender Henrique Capriles, giving Maduro a prospective lead of 14.4%. Datanalisis conducted the poll from 11 March to 13 March; the days following the candidates’ registrations to run in the elections.
Only 15% of respondents believed Capriles would win the upcoming elections. Barclays identified this as a “risk” for the opposition, as a “lack of enthusiasm could lead to the abstention of voters”.
“In that sense, Capriles’s reaction has been an aggressive campaign to try to revitalize opposition voters. He is presenting the election in terms of a battle against adverse and unfair conditions, in which a significant portion of the country (roughly half of it) deserves to be heard,” the financial company’s report concluded.
The results also show that the passing of President Hugo Chavez only had a minor impact on voting intentions. Results from the same company, from a poll conducted on 20 February, show the voting intention for Maduro at 46.4%, just 2.8% less than the more recent poll. The voting intention for Capriles was 34.3%, 0.5% less than the recent poll.
The results suggest a high percentage of undecided votes, abstentions or intentions to vote for other candidates, at 16%.
Barclays argued, “Considering the short period for campaigning, the sympathy effect just after the death of Chavez, restrictions on the press, and the demobilisation of the opposition following two defeats last year, Maduro is still a favourite for the 14 of April presidential elections”.
It is not clear what “restrictions on the press” Barclays refers to. The National Electoral Council has increased the amount of electoral advertising time allowed by television and radio, given the short campaigning time. Television advertisements can last a maximum of four minutes, and radio advertisements five minutes. Official campaigning is allowed from 2 to 11 April.
“Maduro is still the favourite… however his popularity is volatile and relies on the emotional support that Chavez transferred to him,” Barclays stated in its report.
The financial transnational also concluded that the market is assuming Maduro’s victory, and that Venezuela still offers an “interesting asymmetric trade opportunity in the case of a black swan event”. A black swan event is an unexpected event with high impact, and the Barclay’s report says it sees an opposition win in this light.
Andres Izarra, a member of the team heading up the campaign ‘Hugo Chavez’ for Nicolas Maduro, criticised national and international “right wing media” for “ignoring” the poll results. He noted that at the time of speaking, yesterday, of Venezuelan media only newspaper Ultimas Noticias had reported the results.
As of today, newspaper El Universal and news website Noticias24 have also published the results, but TV channel Globovision and conservative paper El Nacional haven’t.
Today, another private, pro-opposition poll company, Hinterlaces also released its poll results. Based on a survey of 1,100 homes around the country, conducted on 16 March, 53% of respondents would vote for Maduro and 35% for Capriles, for a difference of 18 percentage points.
The poll also showed that 61% of Venezuelans think that Maduro will win the elections.
In October last year, Hugo Chavez won the presidential elections with 55.4% of the vote, to 45% by Capriles, with 81% participation. The September poll by Datanalisis gave Chavez a 13% lead.
As interim Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro’s first protocol act was to hold talks with a Chinese delegation, in order to reinforce economic ties with the People’s Republic. Following the meeting on March 8, Maduro declared that “China is the biggest economic driving force of the new world and a main political actor in world decisions.” The meeting was broadcast live on local Venezuelan media and on big screens around the military academy, where Chavistas were paying an emotional farewell to their leader Hugo Chavez.
The meeting concealed a double meaning: It served as a public political cover against anyone interested in destabilizing the Bolivarian revolution, as had occurred in 2002 with the failed coup against Chavez. Officials in Washington likely took note. The second implicit meaning was to reinforce the spirit of the Chavista revolution. It represents a continuity with Chavez’s foreign policy: the Bolivarian revolution which started 14 years ago will pursue Chavez’s main personal goal of creating a multipolar world grounded on strong anti-imperialism.
In his speech at the funeral ceremony, Maduro lightly opened up to the United States, who had dispatched two low-profile delegates to the ceremony, but clearly stated that his future duty would lie in “shap[ing] a world where there are no hegemonic powers, especially here in America.”
Under Hugo Chavez’s presidential mandates, Venezuela attempted to establish a multipolar world order in order to challenge US hegemony. Since 1999, Chavez increased Venezuela bilateral relations with countries such as China, Russia, Belarus, Iran, Syria and Libya. He personally built a bridge between leftist countries in Latin America and this multi-polar world.
Chavez’s international relations were indeed very much self-oriented and grounded in strong friendships. Most of these friendly countries assisted with high profile delegations at the funeral and considered Chavez’s death a personal loss more than the passing of a mere political ally.
Chavez’s Legacy and the Middle East
However, the main focus of Chavez’s foreign policy has been the Middle East and especially the Arab cause, which was considered a priority. Chavez found in the Middle East a common ground for his anti-imperialist policy and good allies not fearful to speak out against US hegemony. In the last decade, Venezuela signed several agreements with Middle Eastern countries, especially Syria, Libya and Iran, concerning natural resources, housing and trade, but mainly preparatory in order to reinforce the political alliance.
The future of these strong ties between Venezuela and Middle Eastern countries hostile to United States represents the main question after Chavez’s death.
Several delegations from the Middle East arrived in Venezuela to pay their condolences to the Venezuelan president. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a telegram to Maduro and a delegation to assist with the funeral. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spent around 24 hours in Caracas and attracted much attention from Venezuelan media. During the ceremony, Ahmadinejad kissed several times the coffin and finally raised his fist in homage to his political ally and close friend.
Venezuelan media followed him around until his last steps on Venezuelan soil at the airport of Maiquetia. The relationship between Venezuela and Iran was solidified with Ahmadenijad’s rise to power in Iran in 2005, and with the consolidation of the Bolivarian political project in Latin America. Ahmadinejad traveled to Latin America on several occasions and received numerous visits from Latin American leaders.
On the other side, Chavez opened Latin America to Ahmadinejad as well, especially in terms of ideological and trade relations with other leftist governments in the region and especially with the members of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas).
Facing international media speculations on the Venezuelan vacuum and about the end of bilateral relations between Iran and Venezuela after Chavez’s death, Ahmadinejad declared upon landing in Iran that “the Iranian nation has strong ties with revolutionary nations and we will help strengthening these ties. Thus, nobody should believe that our relations will be weaker because of the death of Chávez.”
The Iranian state PressTV also reported the declaration of Iran’s Vice-President for International Affairs Ali Saeedlou affirming that the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez would not undermine relations between Tehran and Caracas, and that it was wrong to consider ties with Venezuela as based merely on a personal relationship.
Beside the condolences from regional heads of states and the rush to discredit speculations, the main question remains after Chavez death: Will his successor be able to manage such a self-oriented foreign policy and stance toward the Middle East?
The Arab Spring and Venezuela Last Stances on the Middle East
In the last months, Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro publicly supported China and Russia’s veto against UN Security Council resolutions to sanction Syria. In previous years, Chavez’s government expelled the Israeli ambassador as consequence of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, and he vehemently criticized foreign intervention in Libya, supporting instead his close friend Muammar Gaddafi against what he considered another imperial aggression.
The Arab Spring destabilized Chavez’s relations with some Middle Eastern countries, and Libya was the first loss. But Adriana Boersner, director of the Venezuelan think tank Diploos, is skeptical that the Arab Spring represented any serious inconvenience for Venezuela: “the bilateral relations with Libya were merely related to an ideological component and they were very pragmatic in terms of trade, social, educational and cultural agreements. Of these 150 treaties, only 10 were being ratified by the assembly. Definitely the death of Gaddafi did not greatly affect Venezuela.”
Gaddafi’s death instead affected Hugo Chavez on a personal level. According to Reinaldo Bolivar, vice-minister of foreign affairs for Africa, “Venezuela lost contact with Libya but maintains good relations with other countries in the area.”
Indeed, Venezuela managed to maintain good relations with other countries from the region even if with different perspectives on the events in the Middle East – at least on an official level. That is the case especially with Qatar. The honeymoon between the emir and the comandante was mainly motivated by Chavez’s attempt to emulate the al-Jazeera model with his own creation, TeleSUR.
With the spreading of the Arab Spring to Syria, the agreements between the channels almost faded. But Venezuelan criticism toward al-Jazeera and Qatar’s role in Syria was left to low profile ministers and grassroots groups or individuals. The government publicly remained silent.
According to Reinaldo Bolivar, “in terms of Venezuelan politics toward the Middle East and North Africa, Maduro’s government will act in perfect continuity with Chavez’s mandate. Venezuelan foreign policy will be coherent with the Plan de la Patria of 2013-2019, which basically aims to create a multipolar world, express international solidarity with the oppressed people of the world, the defense of sovereignty and the complete rejection of foreign intervention.”
The Plan de La Patria is to be considered a road map for the coming years of the Bolivarian revolution and it was written a few months before Chavez’s death. It indicates that Venezuela’s prerogative in foreign policy is to shape a multipolar world which aims to preserve peace based on the principle of respect for all countries’ sovereignty.
Maduro, the Chavistas and the Middle East
Doubts persist if Maduro will be able to continue Chavez’s multipolar path and will be able to keep political alliances strongly based on friendship. Maduro was directly chosen by Chavez as his successor in his last public speech on December 8, before he traveled to Cuba for medical treatment against cancer.
Venezuelan analysts have different perspectives on the future of their country’s relations with the Middle East. Carlos Romero, professor at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, reminds us that “even if Chavez established very strong and personal relations with Middle East leaders, Maduro was his minister of foreign affairs for seven years before becoming vice president. He personally knows all these country’s leaders, and probably the relationship with the Middle East will be even deeper in the next years.”
Adriana Boersner instead maintains that after Chavez’s death “Venezuelan foreign policy will be deeply affected. During Chavez’s self-oriented mandates, the foreign ministry was reduced to a merely bureaucratic institution and it did not participate actively and autonomously in shaping international relations with other countries.”
Chavez’s self-oriented relationship with Middle Eastern countries is evident, too, from the limited awareness in terms of foreign policy at the grassroots level of the Bolivarian revolution.
Roso Grimau, delegate of the Venezuelan Communist Party and member of the Committee of International Solidarity in the Venezuelan Assembly considered that “Chavez personally accelerated Venezuela’s relations with the Middle East and Arab nations, because he considered it a right cause. Relations have never much been at the popular level, but now it is the duty of the Venezuelan people to engage and internationalize at its grass root’s basis, the Bolivarian revolution, by expanding ties with people who are facing imperialist aggressions, especially in the Middle East.”
That work needs to be done already. And beside this internationalist stance, Chavistas in the streets in the days of his funeral were sincerely unaware of who Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was when he was interviewed on local television. The basis of the Bolivarian revolution seems definitively uninterested in foreign policy and the Middle East, in particular at this stage.
The Future Bolivarian Roadmap to the Middle East
Maduro will probably win the next elections and act with greater pragmatism. It is not clear if other Latin American leftist leaders such as Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, Raul Castro or Daniel Ortega will follow in Chavez’s footsteps. Chavez’s path toward the Middle East was based on direct confrontation with the United States in the background, and not all these leaders seem interested or able to support that stance.
On the other side, the popular basis of the revolution neither appears ready nor interested in conducting and building solid relations with their counterparts in the Middle East.
The key lies in Maduro’s strength on the international scene. According to Carlos Romero, “Maduro will definitely continue on the path established by Chavez and he will maintain the basic axis of Venezuelan foreign policy for the Middle East, which is based on the support for a nuclear Iran, the rejection of foreign intervention in Syria and the condemnation of the occupation in Palestine.”
At least in the near future, the shadow of Hugo Chavez will guarantee the maintenance of strong relations between Venezuela and Middle East countries. Chavez was an extraordinary charismatic figure, but he shaped strong friendships that will be difficult to replace.