The elections to the Constitutional Assembly in Venezuela were held amid opposition boycott and actual civil war. Reports on turnout vary: from 10% to 50%.
Most Spanish-speaking countries criticize the vote and give political shelter to some oppositionists and judges whom President Nicolas Maduro threatens with arrests (for instance, more than two dozen of oppositionist politicians and lawyers have gathered at the Chilean Embassy in Caracas). Head of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, reported earlier today that 8.5 million people voted. Julio Borges, National Assembly President, refuted the data, saying the turnout was below 2 million people. His first deputy, Freddy Guevara, confirmed that figure. Borges declared that the government of Venezuela “is not a strong government, but a defeated government”.
Venezuelan Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino hurried to assess the election as “illegitimate and ineffective.” Political analyst Edgar Gutierrez called the election “grotesque” and confirmed that there are no documents proving that turnout was more than 2 million. The remaining are “dead souls,” he said. Stalin Gonzalez (Democratic Unity Roundtable) made the brightest statement saying that if El Poliedro (performance hall) is filled with the voters 12 times, they will not make up even 1% of total number of the people who voted today. All those people who voted today are Chavistas. For the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, it was an internal election, he said.
However, it has turned out that not all Bolivarianists could vote. For instance, a resident of a small town located 40 km from Caracas complains that he was late to work (in old Caracas) due to the blocked Francisco Fajardo central highway and there were queues at his polling station. That is why he could not vote for Nicolas Maduro as planned. He is proud of the fact that “Chaves has never lost any election here.” “I will always vote for Maduro and for holy peace in our country,” the man vowed. Many in Venezuela think like him. These are the people who “rose from grassroots” over the last 20 years.
Many residents of Venezuela tell (and there is video footage confirming their votes) that National Intelligence Service regularly uses tear gas on Francisco Fajardo avenue to disperse protesters who, as Defense Minister, General Vladimir Padrino Lopez (his name speaks about political affiliation of his parents) says, have already damaged over 100 voting machines. Both Lopez and Maduro blame Attorney General Luisa Ortega (who has joined the opposition recently) for setting free the detained protesters. Ortega, in turn, blamed the Brazilian developer company Odebrecht for distributing $25 million to Venezuelan politicians and government officials to win the tender for construction of a third bridge over the Orinoco River and a new underground line in Caracas. Among them were former minister of transport, parliamentarian Haiman el Troudi (Hezbollah activist), his wife and mother-in-law. In total, Luisa Ortega Dias named 20 officials.
Opposition is facing more and more repressions with every hour. Many parliamentarians and their families have been arrested. The most popular opposition figures Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledesma who were under home arrest have been detained again. The death toll on both sides varies. Reportedly, the protesters threw a bomb at the law-enforcers and seven police officers were wounded. Interior Minister Nestor Reverol and the ex-minister of interior, current First Vice President Tareck El Aissami (third generation activist of Hezbollah) have already assessed the incident as a terror attack with all the consequences it entails. Evidently, opposition repressions will intensify also after election process.
The elections started with leakage of compromising information about Nicolas Maduro. Early in the morning, Maduro with spouse Delcy Rodriguez (minister) went to vote in Catia district in Caracas. The voting was to be held by means of social ID cards for unsecured sections of the population. The ID cards help controlling the voting process to see who voted for whom. Maduro introduced that system immediately after he was elected as president. He ensured a high turnout of his supporters. This time the system failed before the eyes of journalists and the note “This man does not exist. The ID is invalid” appeared on monitor. Almost all the foreign journalists observing the election mocked the president for the system.
Nicolas Maduro has already expelled Jose Luis Rodriguez Sapatero, the former leader of Spanish Socialists, from the country, as he had a key part in the talks with the opposition since the beginning of the year.
In response, Spain promised to impose sanctions on Venezuela and insist that the entire EU does the same. U.S. President Donald Trump imposed sanctions at the insistence of Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban American. However, the sanctions were imposed not on Venezuelan oil consumed by U.S., but on sale of the American light oil to Venezuela where it is mixed with local rough oil and exported. All the countries indirectly related to the Latin American region, except ALBA states, have condemned the election conducted by Bolivarianists. Meantime, Maduro says he is proud of the sanctions and he is the president of a free country. He has already declared: “You either with Trump or with free countries.” At the same time, Maduro said he is always ready for a dialogue with U.S. Furthermore, he has recently appointed Rafael Ramirez, minister, former director of PDVSA state-owned oil company, as permanent representative to the UN. He conducts dialogue with U.S. better than anyone.
Oscar Arnal, a Spanish professor of constitutional law, says the voting system was unfair: the opposition-controlled state Miranda (where governor is Maduro’s rival of all times Henrique Capriles) will have by four parliamentarians less than Falcon state that supports Bolivarianists. Yet, Miranda population is 3 million people, while only 1 million reside in Falcon. A similar situation can be observed in other states as well.
Nevertheless, Diosdado Cabello, the strongest man in the country, former vice president and parliament chairman (currently first vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela - USPV), said Venezuela “gave a lesson of democracy to the world.” He is sure that the election was legitimate and the results reflect the will of the majority. Similar statements were made by other leaders of USPV and the country as well.
Diosdado Cabello is known to lead “Cartel de los Soles,” the largest drug trafficking group in the country. In Venezuela, they believe that everyone in the country works for Cabello, even those who do not know they do. Therefore, if the civil war results in military dictatorship, Cabello will most likely become the dictator (he has a title of general). Others, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lope and embattled General Raul Baduel will also claim that post. One of them will probably come into the spotlight soon.
While the government declares victory, the opposition stops dialogue and “goes for broke.” The domestic fight intensifies and is due to grow into a civil war unless someone stops it with “iron hand.”