The Corner

Venezuela’s Highly Managed Democracy

Does anyone seriously believe that Venezuela just conducted a free and fair election?

Nicolás Maduro, the hand-picked successor to the late Hugo Chávez, says that presidents in the United States and Mexico won by narrower margins than the 50.66 percent of the vote he claims to have taken — and they were allowed to govern in peace. But those countries both have a fully transparent electoral system, provide for extensive recounts, and allow election observers.

Venezuela does not allow election observers, and the delegation from the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations that was allowed to visit some polling stations has become an apologist for the Maduro regime. When asked about the government’s complete domination of print and broadcast news during the ten-day offical campaign, delegation leader Roberto Rosario said it was due only to the compressed nature of the campaign and “we cannot talk about one side having an advantage.”

Cough, cough. Mary O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal writes this morning that Cuba, which depends on Venezuela for $4 billion a year of subsidized oil shipments to keep its economy going, had a massive footprint in yesterday’s election:

Last month the Spanish newspaper ABC reported that the regime “is sending a detachment of agents for electoral control that could reach 2,500 officers, according to intelligence information that came out of the island.” Havana admits that there are already some 46,000 Cubans serving the “revolution” in Venezuela. These are supposedly medical personnel, teachers and trainers, but a former high-ranking chavista who didn’t want to be identified told ABC that “all of that is a cover to hide the control that Cuba has in Venezuela.”

That comment was supported by the declaration by Cuba’s chief of missions in Venezuela that the missions are there “to ensure our commitment; if until now we have been giving our all, [we] now are ready to give even our lives, our blood, if it were needed for this revolution.”

The opposition campaign of Henrique Capriles has documented what it says are 3,200 campaign violations on Election Day, and its internal count shows that it defeated Maduro. Last month, opposition figures uncovered evidence that Maduro party hacks were in possession of pass codes that gave them the ability to sabotage the voting process on Election Day.

In addition, O’Grady reports:

Electronic voting machines provide plenty of other opportunities for shenanigans. In past elections, Bolivarian enforcers executed a late-day roundup in poor neighborhoods of anyone who was a no-show at the polls. Many Venezuelans believe that because finger prints and identity numbers are taken at voting station, the vote is not secret. Fear of punishment either by getting fired from one’s job or being denied state aid is real.

Yes, Venezuela just had an election. It may even now have what it calls a “recount.” But it will not have a legitimate government determined by international standards for free and fair elections when Maduro is inaugurated as the enforcer of Hugo Chávez’s will. The only vote that really counted in Venezuela yesterday was the one Chávez cast before his death, when he anointed Nicolás Maduro as the country’s new strongman. 

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