It seems that the Venezuelan opposition headed by President Juan Guaido is preparing for presidential elections; however, the conditions of these elections and the progress made in the supposed dialogue with Chavismo are unknown.
This weekend, Henry Ramos Allup, secretary-general of Democratic Action (AD), appeared on the public stage after it was revealed that his son had profited from business with Chavismo. Ramos Allup, in a demonstration, announced his support for Guaido as a presidential candidate “for the upcoming elections with conditions.”
AD en voz de su Sec. Gral. Henry Ramos Allup, anunció a Juan Guaidó como su candidato presidencial (de venir elecciones con condiciones)
#ElBrujoRc comenta: @hramosallup negocia presidencia interina para él como Pdte @AsambleaVE a cambio. pic.twitter.com/CWEEYQuosS
— Reporte Confidencial (@RConfidencial) August 31, 2019
According to Al Navio, the Nicolas Maduro regime and Juan Guaido’s administration will resume conversations this week in Oslo and not in Barbados. The key topic of negotiation would be supposed free elections although the dictatorship has made it clear publicly that Maduro will remain in power.
The theme for Venezuelans is constant uncertainty. The Norwegian dialogues are excessively secretive and have not produced any results. Guaido is behaving as though he is in campaign mode, but Chavismo has remained silent on the matter. Meanwhile, there is a lot of speculation and a lack of clarity from all political sides.
Por ahí vemos que hay algunos desinformados gritando que no habrá elecciones presidenciales. Qué curioso. ¿Tan lejos están de la toma de decisiones?
— Stalin González (@stalin_gonzalez) August 30, 2019
The arrangement for Juan Guaido and his team is an election without Maduro in power. However, Chavismo will not consider any other provision than elections with Maduro in power.
The international reaction to elections in Venezuela has been prompt. The U.S. government has been emphatic that it will not back any elections with Maduro in power and neither would it back the candidacy of Juan Guaido unless he resigns from his current post.
Both Elliott Abrams, Venezuela’s special emissary, and Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, agree that going to an election with Maduro in power would be “giving up change in Venezuela.”
“Clearly, there must be new free and fair elections. And no free and fair elections are possible with Maduro holding the presidency. I have heard from our partners, some in Europe, that they can send election observers and that electoral authority can be reformed. It does not matter. In the transition period, Maduro will continue to be in charge of the army, the police, intelligence, and collectives [armed civilian groups], and will maintain control of all sources of violence and intimidation,” Abrams told ABC.
Recently a senior U.S. official said that if Guaido and Maduro want to run for office, they would first have to leave the office to avoid disputes about voting manipulation.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Action political party has already expressed its support for interim president Juan Guaido as a presidential candidate in potential upcoming elections. However, in February the Venezuelan opposition signed and published the Transitional Statute of Venezuela, a document that establishes a year of duration for the provisional government presided by Juan Guaido after the end of the usurpation by Nicolas Maduro.
On 5th February 2019, all the political forces composing the National Assembly approved the legal instrument. Although the Statute does not prohibit Guaido from competing as a candidate, he cannot do so because previously in 2017 all the parties of the opposition coalition signed a public document whereby they promised that the president of the transition would not participate in the first free presidential elections after Maduro.
In Venezuela, there is no possibility that elections will be held with democratic guarantees and international standards. The only way to ensure fair elections is a complete transformation of the CNE preceded by an exit of the regime so that it does not maintain control of the authorities.
Real free elections
In recent years, with the help of the CNE, Maduro has emerged victorious in elections through various actions that harm the Venezuelan opposition: the CNE prevents the registration of new voters; it disqualifies opposition candidates; it modifies the voter registry; it relocates polling stations at the last minute; it eliminates the use of indelible ink and fingerprints; it violates the law by preventing the substitution of candidates on the card and allows the official to take advantage. Additionally, many voters are unmotivated, and there is a manipulation of electoral figures.
Roberto Abdul, president of the steering committee of the civil association Sumate, an NGO with technological and logistical experience in coverage of electoral events, told the PanAm Post that for the elections to be transparent it is necessary to change the electoral authorities that have worked for years in favor of the Chavista regime. He also pointed out that it is essential to purge the Permanent Electoral Registry (REP) and to empower the political organizations that were annulled by the CNE. Purging the REP would involve clearing lists of duplicate registrations that has enabled some Venezuelans to cast their vote more than once in any given election.
Furthermore, the regime cannot be allowed to relocate voters abruptly. All Venezuelans who have left the country and have the right to vote from abroad should also be taken into account.
When talking about free and transparent elections, one should also take into account the dismantling of the armed groups that support Chavismo, such as the collectives the Colombian guerrillas, “dissidents” of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) which operate from Venezuela, the Special Action Forces (FAES), and many others who use tactics of intimidation and persecution to prevent voters from freely exercising their right to vote.
Thus, free elections in Venezuela require more than the exit of Maduro and the upheaval of the CNE. Chavismo must abandon all spheres of power. The country has to implement a shock force against the armed groups that guard the dictatorship and could influence the vote. Venezuela also needs candidates with an impeccable resume and the oversight of an impartial international body that will guarantee transparency in the election process.