Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights

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Posts tagged Venezuelan election

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The Venezuelan Government’s Response to Recent International Criticism

Timothy Gill and David Smilde

On Saturday Venezuela vigorously responded to criticism offered by President Barack Obama earlier that day, calling on “compatriots” to “take up the slingshot of David to confront Goliath’s new aggression.” In an interview with Univision the night before Obama had said that the US was worried about the violence and the crackdown on the opposition. He said the US approach:

Is based on the notion of our basic principles of human rights and democracy and freedom of press and freedom of assembly. Are those being observed? There are reports that they have not been fully observed post-election. And you know, I think our only interest at this point is making sure that the people of Venezuela are able to determine their own destiny free from the kinds of practices that the entire hemisphere generally has moved away from.

In response, on May 4, Elias Jaua, the Venezuelan government’s Foreign Minister, read a government communiqué over national radio and television rejecting President Obama’s statements.  In it, Jaua touted the sophistication of the Venezuelan electoral system and described Venezuela’s human rights record.

We find ourselves obliged to tell you what the rest of the hemisphere already knows, that in Venezuela there has been a total and absolute respect for the human rights of all, from the very moment that Commander Hugo Chávez assumed control of the Venezuelan state and pushed forward a Magna Carta that has the most advanced catalogue of rights in the region…President Obama, the people of Venezuela now fully enjoy rights and liberties that the US is still far from achieving.


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Filed under OAS Venezuelan election US Venezuela relations

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Time for Statesmanship

David Smilde

After fourteen years under a president who was wildly popular among some, reviled among others; after the tragic death of a popular president generated deep emotions among a significant part of the population; after a short but negative campaign marked by the by now customary abuse of state resources in favor of the incumbent, Venezuela went to the urns on Sunday and the results showed a closely divided country. The narrow margin in favor of Nicolas Maduro over Henrique Capriles has resulted in a political stalemate that will require statesmanship on both sides if is to be resolved peacefully. 

National Electoral Council (CNE) president Tibisay Lucena stated yesterday that it was not the CNE’s role to push forward with a recount when there was no manifest problem with the electoral system’s functioning. She suggested that political contenders with complaints need to use legal channels established by the Constitution and the law.

Indeed, there is a legal protocol that needs to be followed and the CNE’s lone opposition rector, Vicente Diaz, also asked the Capriles camp to come forward and file their grievance. But what Lucena said was also a little disingenuous. While it is true that the Capriles camp has not proceeded with a formal request for an audit, her fellow CNE rector Vicente Diaz has. Yet the CNE did not get around to discussing it yesterday. She also surrounded it by suggesting that the paper ballot is just a receipt and the actual vote is in the memory of the machine. If that is the case it is hard to understand why every election is followed by a citizen audit of 54% of the ballot boxes.

The CNE needs to prioritize the demand for a 100% audit. On election night President Elect Maduro agreed with the idea. Even if the system did function well, in light of the fact that a significant part of the population does not trust the result, it would be prudent to carry out the audit. Showing some statesmanship at this point would only increase the credibility of the CNE. It would also increase the credibility of Maduro—credibility he will improve his chances for a successful presidency.

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Filed under Venezuelan election 100% Audit

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Capriles Radicalizes Demand for Recount in Venezuelan Elections

Hugo Pérez Hernáíz

In a press conference today, former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles insisted on asking the National Electoral Council (CNE) for a full recount of the ballots. He asked his supporters to stay calm and allow him to “handle this crisis in a responsible way.” But he also said that he would not concede defeat until a 100% of ballots had been recounted.

Although he has so far stopped short of using the word “fraud” to describe the situation, he is asking his supporters to hold a cacerolazo (pot banging) protest tonight. Furthermore, in a sign that he might radicalize the protest, he asked “the people of Caracas” to go to the CNE this Wednesday with him. He also said that from tomorrow on people in the provinces should go to their local CNE offices to protest. At the time of the press conference Leopoldo López, of the opposition party Voluntad Popular, tweeted: “ATTENTION: here are the addresses of all the offices of the CNE in the country. Share this with everyone!”

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Filed under Venezuelan election Natoinal Electoral Council

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Assessing Venezuela’s Electoral Playing Field—Part II


Main office of Venezuelan tax authority SENIAT. Sign over entrance says  ”Seniat Patrols Support Maduro.” “Patrols” are members of the PSUV active in electoral campaigns.

David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernáiz

In the first post in this series we looked at the advantages of incumbency accruing to the holder of the office of the presidency. In this second post we will look at the advantages of incumbency as they affect candidates’ ability to get their message out and mobilize their supporters.

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Filed under Venezuelan election National Electoral Council Electoral mobilization

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In Venezuela Incumbent’s Advantage Means Public Spending Announcements

Hugo Pérez Hernáiz and David Smilde

Yesterday we mentioned the significant incumbent’s advantage accruing to the office of the presidency. Most analyses of this advantage in Venezuela focus on the use of state media and obligatory broadcasts (“cadenas”). But other forms of incumbent’s advantage such as inauguration of public works and special budget announcements get less attention. Indeed in Venezuela inauguration of public works and announcements of new spending plans in course of campaigning rarely turns heads.

As mentioned yesterday, Venezuela’s electoral law provides scarce controls on such activity insofar as it is entirely vague on when an incumbent candidate is acting as a candidate, and when as holder of elected office.

Socialist Party (PSUV) candidate Nicolás Maduro is taking full advantage of this ambiguity. The following is a list of the announcements made by Maduro since the official start of the campaign on April 2. These are not campaign promises, which are a legitimate part of campaigning, allow the voter to know what a candidate plans to do if elected and can later be used to hold him or her accountable.

Rather these are announcements of government expenditures that Maduro has approved as an elected official. Just to make clear that the following reports are not based on distortions from the opposition media, all of the following links are to official state media.

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Filed under Nicolas Maduro Venezuelan election consejo nacional electoral public spending

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Tova Andrea Wang: “When Venezuela Goes to the Polls”

International elections expert Tova Wang has focused her attention on the Venezuelan election and published a thorough review in Equal Times

Having written a book on voter suppression in the US, she admires the high number of registered voters and high citizen participation. However she criticizes the National Electoral Council’s inability to ensure a fair campaign and laments the lack of international observation.

Filed under Venezuelan election consejo nacional electoral

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Mobilization Efforts for Venezuela’s April Election

Hugo Pérez Hernáiz

David Smilde

As Iñaki Sagarzazu argued yesterday, the only path to victory for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles runs through issues of turnout. Put differently, since opinion polls put ruling socialist party candidate Nicolas Maduro far ahead, the only thing that could make the April 14 election into an actual contest is if Capriles turns out all his voters, and some pro-Chávez voters who have doubts about Maduro stay home. This hope in the Capriles camp can’t simply be dismissed as wishful thinking. Indeed in the two elections that Chávez “lost” (the December 2007 referendum and the 2010 legislative elections) turnout was a key factor.

In a previous post regarding the 2012 elections we argued that the government has consistently shown a greater capacity for mobilizing supporters than the opposition. However, it is hard to know what that means for this election. In a series of tweets this morning, pollster Luis Vicente Leon said “This is not a traditional election and we do not know if the models we have successfully used before to estimate abstention will work.” 

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Filed under Venezuelan election voter turnout Electoral mobilization

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Lack of Issues Becomes an Issue in Venezuelan Campaign

David Smilde

As mentioned before on this blog, the campaign for the April 14 presidential election is shaping up to be largely issue free as Nicolas Maduro, with a  comfortable lead, focuses on his connection to the figure of Chávez and Henrique Capriles focuses on trying to make clear that “Maduro is not Chávez.”

On March 23 the Observatorio Electoral Venezolano, one of the domestic NGOs that has been accredited to observe the election, criticized the lack of content in the campaign in the following terms:

Few ideas are being heard regarding how the difficult task of governance will be assumed over the coming years.  Instead, we hear degrading insults of various types that deteriorate the national political climate…an aggressive discourse that obviously does not help political differences, which in any normal electoral debate would be handled through arguments in a pacific manner.

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Filed under Venezuelan election campaign strategy Issues Nicmer Evans Luis Vicente Leon