Venezuela in context
When the worker Nicolás Maduro was re-elected as President of the country on May 20, the international right wing unleashed all its demons. It sanctioned dozens of officials of the sovereign state of Venezuela, dictated economic warfare measures against its energy companies, confiscated 800 tons of gold in the Central Bank of England; and last August these same forces attempted to assassinate the duly elected president. Lately, it has stolen more than 30 billion dollars in Venezuelan goods and companies in the US, reaching the point of threatening a war of aggression, and destruction against any country trying to emulate Venezuela’s national freedom and sovereignty.
Indeed, in such an aggressive context, experienced by many countries in the region, it has been difficult to establish that the elective principle grants legitimacy to the head of State and / or Government. In theory, elections establish legitimacy for leaders in democratic societies. In political systems with kings or queens, following the doctrine of Divine Law, legitimacy is ideological and inherited or imposed by violence, where they have gained power through external invasions. But in our region, since we have not yet completely liberated ourselves from colonialism and still have colonial enclaves and weak republican states whose economies are dependent on the economy of the USA and Europe, we are subject to neocolonial harassment. This includes grating demands of an absolute surplus value of labor and the threat of force and violence that seek to destroy the legality and legitimacy of elections based on popular will.
If explicit military intervention of these imperialist powers and their lackey governments in the region occurs in Venezuela… this act of international aggression will be met with widespread resistance. And there will be no wall that contains it.
In this way, the USA and Canada, along with some countries of the old Europe, separated from the common destiny that could have been shared regionally, across continents, among our republics. Moreover, since the last third of the 19th century, when the US became an imperialist power, we have endured its outrages against our national lives, particularly its openly colonialist and interfering Monroe doctrine. The current attack conducted by the USA and former colonialist countries of Europe against Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia is due to the fact that these countries propose, as an aspiration of the majority of peoples in the region, our Second Independence with respect to the European and American economic interests, eager for our riches. Historically, when governments appear in our region that potentially affect European and American economic interests, imperialism promotes crimes of aggression, dictatorships, coups of States, and even threatens to invade our countries to overthrow sovereign governments and impose puppet regimes.
Background to the May 2018 elections
In the context of the crime of international aggression perpetrated against Venezuela for years, a dialogue was facilitated in the Dominican Republic in 2017 at the request of the opposition to agree to a democratic coexistence in the country, and the parties formally agreed to advance the elections. The agreement ready for his final signature, with the certification of the Dominican President, the former President Zapatero of Spain and other observers, Mr. Borges—delegate of the opposition—received a fateful call from Bogota, ordering him not to sign. Such was the displeasure of the Dominican President at this sign of bad faith that he declared he could no longer sponsor more dialogues in his country. The move on the part of MUD (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática) to withdraw from the negotiated agreement mocked the good faith of many. In these circumstances, the National Constituent Assembly of Venezuela resolved that the Electoral Council call elections, and so these were convened for May 20, 2018.
Legal and transparent elections
With an electorate of more than 20 million citizens qualified for the presidential vote and almost 19 million qualified to choose the 251 deputies of the Legislative Councils of 23 states, more than 14,000 electoral centers were organized. Six hundred and thirty-eight polling stations announced the electoral schedule eleven weeks in advance of the election, faithfully fulfilling the technical aspects of the electoral system. Likewise, elections were prepared for the 108,000 Venezuelans registered abroad, including the 120 cities of 14 countries with Venezuelan migrants.
There were initially five candidates for the Presidency of Venezuela (Henri Falcón, Javier Bertucci (an evangelical pastor), Reinaldo Quijada, Luis Alejandro Ratti (who was already on the ballot when he resigned his candidacy), and Nicolás Maduro. Falcón was the strongest of the opposition, as he was supported by 4 parties, among them, the Christian Democrats COPEI. All candidates accepted the current electoral rules and participated in the audits offered by the electoral system.
Seventeen audits were made to the electoral process. In Venezuela, the electoral system is submitted to audits before, during and after each election to verify transparency, with the participation of political parties, international observers and technicians. By the way, the guarantees given by the CNE are greater than those of Hugo Chávez in 1998. In these May 2018 elections, no candidate hesitated to sign the system of electoral guarantees, subject to the Electoral Council of Latin America (CEELA). There were more than 150 observers from all continents, including this writer.
However, accusations about the process were not in short supply. The first one came from an episodic circumstance. The candidate Ratti declined his candidacy in favor of Falcón after millions of ballot papers had already been printed. Critics shouted “fraud” because you could not impute those votes to Falcón automatically. The second appeared once the triumph of Maduro was proclaimed. There was talk of an “electronic fraud” by the MUD constituents, which in my view represents a gross slander against their country. I was there on election day and I could see how the process worked. The electronic vote is directly pressed on a keyboard where the candidates are chosen, with a trace of paper verified by the voter. The machines incorporate an elector authentication device, with a fingerprint reader. All this happens under the surveillance of international parties and observers.
Another security measure is the use of secure keys, generated from a shared key, composed of several contributed by the parties and the CNE. The Law allows the opening of 54% of the boxes of receipts from the voting vouchers. This has been done and it was always found to work well. The system guarantees one elector, one vote; the secrecy of the vote; respect for the voter; the rapid transmission because at the end it is connected to a centralized system that receives the transmissions of all the machines and generates a bulletin of the result; and, it allows for audits, even by the voters themselves. Not surprisingly, former U.S President Jimmy Carter called the Venezuelan process “the best electoral system in the world.” In this electoral campaign, all five candidates recognized the Venezuelan electoral system as reliable.
The electoral boycott and the diversity of aggressions
There are countries where any action to boycott electoral processes is prohibited, or, failing that, it is proscribed to campaign for a null vote. In other countries, voting is mandatory. Ultimately, all these rules are inspired by Rousseau’s opinion that “It is necessary to force human beings to be free”, and, therefore, those actions are considered aggressions to the elective principle. But in Venezuela the laws are permissive of all those actions: the vote is not obligatory; you can campaign for abstention and anyone who has lived there for years there can tell you that the hundreds of existing opposition newspapers rant and insult the government without repercussions.
Prior to the elections of May 2018, a segment of MUD—the oppositional front—was integrated into parties participating in street terrorism that in 2017 left more than 100 murdered, more than a thousand injured and material losses of more than $30 billion. This segment decided to abstain from participating in the May 2018 elections and threatened to boycott them. Henri Falcón, who was from the MUD, distanced himself from that organization and, in the face the terrorism which he himself denounced, decided to be a candidate. He was supported by three organizations, including a sector of the Christian Democracy. The MUD abstention was an opposition tool to disqualify the government of Nicolás Maduro, but as described by a center-right newspaper, El Universal, it only revealed the “weaknesses and lack of generosity among the opposition“ (May 17, 2018).
The North American and European right interfered by supporting MUD and attacking the May 2018 elections. They induced the rise of inflation, supported a conspiracy against the transportation system, and sabotage to electricity, water and telecommunications services. Systematic media, financial and commercial aggressions were added to the “sanctions” imposed by the US and the EU and implemented daily against Venezuela. All this was designed to create anxiety and discomfort in the electorate. In spite of all this, the worker candidate triumphed.
The focus of foreign interference was to try to reduce electoral participation. Governments subordinated to Washington like the Canadian government “prohibited” the installation of electoral centers in that country, violating the human rights of thousands of Venezuelans there authorized to vote. However, even with this, and even while the financial and commercial blockade to the country worsened, electoral participation was within foreseeable parameters. In the elections there was a participation of 46.01% of the electoral roll. The three candidates opposed to the government obtained 32% of the votes. The worker Maduro won with 68% of the votes, fully legitimizing his popular election.
The campaign of abstention—the electoral boycott—which aimed to delegitimize the elections was not successful. For the reasons already indicated above, the abstentions measured in the elections did not invalidate the results, since the abstention rates have been between 25 and 30 percent in previous presidential elections. The abstention even rose to 30.46% when Caldera was elected in 1993; and it was 43.69%, when Hugo Chávez won in 1998.
However, dissatisfied about losing in the elections, Henri Falcón sang “fraud” and accused the government of a decisive advantage. It is true that the government had advantages, but these were not created by the electoral order. Instead, evidence points to the discrediting of the MUD to which Falcón belonged; the absence of serious civil leaders accompanying him in his campaign, reflecting divisions within his own organization; the subordination of the MUD to foreign governments; and the inability of the opposition to agree on a single candidate. Moreover, Falcón also proposed a neoliberal program unattractive to the conscious Venezuelan population.
Maduro’s victory was due to the fact that he was supported by strong fronts and political parties. Note that the PSUV—Maduro’s party—has about 5 million members, and that makes a big difference. Nonetheless he was also supported by nine different parties. On the other hand, the opposition’s strong candidate—Falcón—also had advantages through the international media campaign and economic warfare in his favor. Under this light, the accusation of Maduro having unfair advantages became unsupportable and it soon vanished. Then, the losers, expressly or through silence, recognized the triumph of Nicolás Maduro.
Maduro was sworn in for his new term on January 10, 2019, legitimately as a result of a well-secured electoral process, with audits, supported and monitored by opposition parties and the presence of technicians and observers. The grotesque self-proclaimed presence of another “president of Venezuela”—Mr. Juan Guiadó, who did not even participate in the electoral process, but in the terrorist acts of 2017 in Caracas—is then a parliamentary bribery that can only be part of a coup d’état, totally illegitimate.
To the misfortune of the region, the US and other governments do not view peace as the supreme value of world relations. They disrespect the sovereignty of States, disregarding national and international legal norms, endangering, with their doctrine of “everything is for sale” the stability of our continent. I have no doubt that if explicit military intervention of these imperialist powers and their lackey governments in the region occurs in Venezuela—which is not unlikely given the irrationalism and ignorance with which they direct their external policies—this act of international aggression will be met with widespread resistance. And there will be no wall that contains it.
Rafael Quintero is an Ecuadorian academic and social scientist. He was the Ambassador of Ecuador in Venezuela from 2015 to 2018.