Venezuela
Venezuela will face a new electoral farce on November 21

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro

Accompanied by his granddaughters Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro casts his ballot during the ruling party's primary elections of United Socialist Party of Venezuela, at the Escuela Ecológica Bolivariana Simón Rodríguez in the Fuerte Tiuna neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, August 8, 2021.

© picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS | Matias Delacroix

In Venezuela there are no democratic conditions and one cannot assume that what will take place on November 21 will be a fair election. Neither the majority of Venezuelans nor of the international community, recognize the conditions as democratic. Politically, the Maduro regime has closed all institutional channels that guarantee the rule of law, the separation of powers and respect for the will of its citizens. Should an opponent be elected, his or her election would hardly be respected.  Even if it were, there is no way the opponent will be able to exercise power freely, due to persecution and imposition of parallel officials by the regime.

As this article is being written, there are hundreds of political prisoners, many of them being tortured. Many leaders have gone into exile or are persecuted and politically alienated. The paramilitary groups of the regime and the military or even criminal gangs have control of the electoral centers. No one can freely exercise their vote, and less so as often a box of food or an official subsidy depend on that vote. There is no way to guarantee the secrecy of the vote nor the security of the electoral machines, making the vote count untrustworthy.

The last opportunity that provided some competitive conditions was the 2015 legislative election that resulted in a legitimate National Assembly, one that the world still recognizes. The regime will not allow a scenario like that again and has closed any possibility of competitive and free elections by dismantling institutions, manipulating the judiciary as an arm of legality, persecuting dissidents and creating partly an opposition of its own that is willing to cohabit with the regime without really seeking political change, similar to what can be observed in Nicaragua.

Since 2018, the regime has been illegitimate and has not been recognized by the international democratic community. This led Juan Guaidó, the president of the parliament elected in 2015, to assume the interim presidency of the country. However, the lack of fulfilment of expectations by the interim government, has given the regime time to argue that there is no other solution than the one they propose: elections in their own way.

In recent years, the regime has earned three major labels: illegitimate, corrupt and criminal. The first for their electoral fraud, the second for the looting they have committed and the third for their relationship with international crime and their systematic violation of human rights and crimes against humanity. All have generated sanctions and important pressure on the regime. However, as the conditions have again worsened, it seems impossible that the upcoming elections could achieve change. Taking part in a process that is not a real election unfairly credits the regime by positioning it back in the field of politics and takes away the true component that sustains it: crime.

Still, for many it is better to participate in this false election because it is an opportunity to win those spaces closest to the people: the regional and local governments. But the regime has shown that it does not respect the vote of the citizens: it imposes parallel governments, removes budgets, persecutes and tortures. In addition, there is no territorial sovereignty in many parts of the country, so the exercise of the vote is not free at all.

That is why it is incomprehensible that the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, has decided to send an Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) to Venezuela. An exploratory mission that visited the country in July reported that the conditions for an EOM were not given. Mr. Borrell seems unaware of the mission's own recommendations. Sending the EOM would put at risk the rigor of the usual international standards that an EOM establishes in order to be able to deploy a mission, affecting the image of Europe.

All this is happening in a context in which the regime will be formally investigated by the International Criminal Court for the alleged commission of crimes against humanity, as announced by its prosecutor in his most recent visit to Venezuela. The decision has surprised everyone and it clearly puts the regime in a very difficult situation.

In Venezuela there are 252 political prisoners: they are systematically persecuted, tortured, killed in jails. Human rights organizations, inside and outside the country, have raised their voices because of this. The ICC's decision is historic and a relief to many victims and families of victims who continue to seek justice. The regime must know that whatever it does, it will not be able to evade justice. All efforts should now be concentrated on achieving justice as this is the only way a fair transition to democracy is possible.

Venezuela's solution must come from a negotiation, but one with serious guarantors and with enforceable agreements. They must guarantee the exit of the regime from power and, from there, the call for free and transparent elections. This requires internal organization, clear and ethical leadership and commitment from the international community. This combination of forces will be decisive so that, with justice and clarity, Venezuela can regain its freedom and embark on a very complex transition process that will lead it to democracy.

The longer the international community delays this, the worse the consequences will be for Venezuelans themselves and for the region. Migration will not stop, the regime will further expand its influence, and the security of the region will be compromised.

Paradoxically, the destruction of Venezuela may be its best chance to its reconstruction. This requires the correct ideas - those of freedom - but also the conscience of the leaders and their supporters, who openly commit to help in the reconstruction of this country.

 

Pedro Urruchurtu is the Coordinator of International Affairs of Vente, the liberal party of Venezuela, and is Vice President of the Liberal Network of Latin America (RELIAL).