Venezuela: Opposition in Discussion to Hold Elections, Despite Maduro Remaining in Office

The Venezuelan opposition is now meeting with representatives of the Maduro regime to discuss presidential elections for next year, despite the fact that Maduro still remains in office.

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Current negotiations, sponsored by Norway, are taking place in Barbados (Wikipedia).

In Venezuela there is new talk of presidential elections without first removing Maduro; interim president Juan Guaidó himself has raised such speculation.

On Monday, July 15, the dialogue in Barbados between the dictatorship and the opposition resumed, in which elections have been proposed for the year 2020. Current Miranda governor Hector Rodríguez would presumably be the Chavista candidate, and Guaidó the opposition candidate.

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Although there is much secrecy about the talk, which have been sponsored by Norway, what has become clear is that although Maduro has not left power, the possibility of holding elections without him is being discussed, presumably with guarantees.

For Juan Guaidó and his team the demand would be none other than elections without Maduro in power. But Chavismo would not consider another presidential ticket.

Guaidó has indicated that there is only one objective: cessation of presidential usurpation, establishing a transitional government and calling for “free” elections with international observation in Venezuela. However, everything indicates that these could be modified.

The campaign has begun

Through social media and some media outlets, the campaign for an election is emerging despite the fact that it is unknown how an election would take place, since the Chavista National Electoral Council (CNE) and Nicolás Maduro are still in power .

According to the newspaper ABC, the opposition political parties are reaching a consensus to run candidates in a presumed presidential elections. “The candidate on the part of the opposition would be Juan Guaidó (35), interim president of Venezuela and the National Assembly; and the candidate of the Socialist Party of Unity Venezuela (PSUV) would be Héctor Rodríguez (37), governor of Miranda state.”

Journalist José Gregorio Meza made the claim in the newspaper El Nacional, predicting that the next presidential election would take place between February and April next year.

But Meza is not the only one talking about the possibility of elections in a country where there are no democratic guarantees. On Monday July 15, Timoteo Zambrano, opposition deputy, said that the “incorporation of pro-government deputies into the National Assembly, will allow us to reach an agreement to call for elections.”

Even President Guaidó himself spoke of presidential elections in front of the media, responding to Chavista Diosdado Cabello, who last week said that elections would not be held in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan Episcopal Conference also mentioned the need for elections in Venezuela, but stressed that the main demand is the exit of Maduro from power.

“Faced with the reality of an illegitimate and failed government, Venezuela cries out for a change in direction, and a return to the Constitution,” they said in a document. In addition, the bishops raised the necessity of an “election in the shortest possible time for a new president of the Republic.”

But while this pro-electoral campaign has already begun, in Venezuela human rights are still being violated, the same CNE is running the show, and the same regime that has stolen elections by falsifying election results is in power.

In Venezuela, as things currently stand, there is no possibility of holding elections with democratic guarantees that meet international standards for transparency. The only way for that to happen would be through a complete change at the CNE.

Truly free and fair elections

In recent years, with the help of the CNE, Maduro has won elections by using a series of different actions that harm the Venezuelan opposition: they prevent the registration of new voters; modify voter registration; relocate voting centers at the last minute; eliminate the use of indelible ink and fingerprint readers; violate the law by preventing the substitution of candidates on the ballot, and allow for advantages on the part of the ruling party. Additionally, there is evidence that they manipulate election results.

Roberto Abdul, president of the steering committee of Súmate, an NGO with technological experience and logistics in the coverage of electoral events, told the PanAm Post that in order for elections to be transparent, it is necessary to change the electoral authorities that have worked for years in favor of the Chavez regime. In addition, he recalled that it is essential to purge the Permanent Electoral Registry (REP) and empower political organizations that were annulled by the CNE. To purge the REP, the country would have to eliminate thousands of Venezuelans who have multiple registrations, and who have been able to exercise their vote more than once.

In addition, the regime can not be allowed to abruptly change conditions for voting. Likewise, all Venezuelans who have left the country and who have the right to vote from abroad must be taken into account.

When talking about free and transparent elections, the dismantling of armed groups that support Chavismo, such as collectives, should also be taken into account; the Colombian guerrillas, “dissidents” of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), which operate from Venezuela; the Special Actions Forces (FAES), among others, that with acts of intimidation and persecution prevent the voters from freely exercising their right to vote.

In order to hold a free election in Venezuela, it is necessary to ask for more than the exit of Maduro and the replacement of the officials at the CNE. It is also necessary for Chavismo to abandon all spheres of power, take action against the armed groups that protect the dictatorship and that could influence the vote, and establish impartial international oversight that guarantees that the entire electoral process is transparent.

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