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Latin America Venezuela votes

Venezuelans went to the polls again at the weekend, but much media coverage here in Britain was again misrepresentative, writes FRANCISCO DOMINGUEZ

MUNICIPAL elections took place in Venezuela on Sunday, electing 335 mayors. This was the 24th national election in Venezuela since 1998 and the third in less than four months, with presidential elections set to take place next year.

Some 9,139.564 people voted — a turnout of 47.23 per cent of the voting population, which compares favourably with the turnout of less than 30 per cent for all six elections for Britain’s “metro mayors” elections in May this year.

The turnout is particularly impressive considering that a number of right-wing opposition parties announced they would be boycotting the election. 

Nonetheless, and reflecting ongoing divisions within Venezuela’s right-wing opposition, several opposition parties did participate by fielding candidates. 

Furthermore, many individuals who are members of the boycotting parties stood as independents in many mayoralties. 

With over 97 per cent of the votes processed by the National Electoral Council (CNE), “Chavista” candidates had won 23 mayoralties of the capital cities, including Caracas, losing only in San Fernando, Tachira state. 

Of the total 335 mayoralties being contested, Chavista candidates had won over 300 at the time of writing, while opposition candidates taken as a whole were successful in in about 30 mayoralties.

The CEELA (Latin American Council of Electoral Experts) observers (15 out of a total of 60 international observers ) who have been in Venezuela monitoring the election, including the audits carried out prior to the election, the audits during the election and the audits planned for after the election, have declared their confidence in Venezuela’s electoral system.

Predictably, much international media coverage of the poll has failed to cover the actual results, as verified by international observers, and contained misrepresentation of elections in Venezuela.

In particular, much media coverage of Venezuela has failed to recognise that the rules governing all elections in Venezuela are governed by the National Electoral Council, as outlined in the country’s constitution.

President Nicolas Maduro and other leading government representatives this weekend urged those right-wing opposition parties that had boycotted the election, including those elements who have supported violence aimed at forcing out the elected government in recent years, to participate in elections from now on. 

This reflects the findings of a recent independent poll which found that 77 per cent of the Venezuelan population thought that opposition plans to boycott the municipal elections were wrong.

In terms of the way forward, Maduro is due to meet all elected mayors later this month to discuss how they can best co-operate to move forward dialogue in the country. 

This will include advancing solutions to the country’s ongoing difficulties, including those resulting from the ongoing US sanctions designed to choke the country’s economy.

The Venezuelan government, with the support of much of civil society, has consistently sought to engage all opposition parties in dialogue to renounce violence as a way to achieve political ends and find peaceful means to address the country’s challenges.

The means for such a regional dialogue under the auspices of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) exist, with the participation of the former presidents of numerous countries. 

The Venezuelan government and much of civil society have indicated a commitment to take part in such talks, but the Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mud) opposition coalition has displayed an on-off attitude to doing so. 

The latest position is that previously discontinued talks were reinstated on December 1 in the Dominican Republic.

Discussions are ongoing, and dialogue remains the way forward for Venezuela. In contrast to this, the ever-widening sanctions from the Trump administration aimed at forcing “regime change” will only exacerbate the country’s divisions and difficulties.

Francisco Dominguez is secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.

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