President Nicolás Maduro and “First Combatant” Cilia Flores on re-election campaign tour across Venezuela.

President Nicolás Maduro and “First Combatant” Cilia Flores on re-election campaign tour across Venezuela.

Editor’s update: In a gross violation of international law, Canada is not allowing Venezuelan embassies or consulates in the cities of Toronto, Ottawa or Vancouver to install polling stations,  thus in effect denying Venezuelans living in Canada the right to vote in the May 20 election. 

“They denounce that there is a dictatorship in Venezuela, but who is denying the right to vote? Only dictatorship countries do not allow citizens to exercise their right to vote, so I ask if Venezuela –according to some world nations – is a dictatorship, how is it that today Canada intends to curtail Venezuelans’ right to vote?

“Who is preventing here the right to suffrage and to vote, the government of Venezuela or the government of Canada?” Arreaza said. (Telesur)

President Nicolás Maduro of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has been welcomed in the streets by hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan workers over the past few weeks as his re-election campaign tour has visited many diverse areas of the country. These demonstrations fly in the face of the divided Venezuelan political opposition, the U.S. government and its neoliberal collaborator regimes in the region, all of whom claim that Venezuelans are suffering under an unpopular, undemocratic dictatorship.

These claims do not stand up to scrutiny. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in his capacity as head of The Carter Center, a non-governmental organization which has observed numerous elections in Venezuela dating back to 1998, has described the country’s election process as “the best in the world.”

Why is that the case?

Ease of voting and security guarantees

At the voting booth, Venezuela employs biometric technology in concert with simple paper receipts to ensure that eligible voters are who they claim to be, and that the electronically-tallied totals are verifiable with a hard-copy backup. The voting machines currently in use enable audits at each stage of the voting process as well as randomized storage order of the votes cast to protect voter identities.

Additionally, Venezuela holds a “dry run” exercise in the lead-up to its elections which gives voters a chance to find a route to their local polling place and interact with voting machines so there will be no surprises on election day. The dry run in preparation for the May 20 presidential election was held on May 6, with many localities reporting higher than expected participation.

While many ordinary working people and the precariously employed masses in the United States are forced to choose between voting or logging crucial paying hours of work on U.S. election Tuesdays, Venezuela holds its elections on Sundays.The National Electoral Council (CNE) publishes all documents related to vote counting, including results from each voting station, to its website. The CNE announced in April that special steps would be taken around the country to ensure voters with motor, visual and other disabilities would be guaranteed assistance in exercising their right to participate in the election.

Divided opposition to Maduro and the socialist vision

In March, Maduro and presidential hopefuls from the moderate wing of the political opposition met at a neutral site in the Dominican Republic to ratify an Electoral Guarantees Agreement, which among other points included an invitation for the United Nations to send election observers with technical staff to observe the May 20 election.

By contrast, controversial hard-right opposition figures such as Leopoldo López have renewed their years-old call to boycott all elections. This is part of a strategy to delegitimize the country’s model election process and ultimately to invite intervention, sanctions or other meddling from external forces like the Organization of American States or
the government of the United States–a strategy which violates Venezuela’s hard-won sovereignty and which 2018 presidential election opposition polling leader Henri Falcon has spoken out against.

López was instrumental in promoting and stoking the deadly, fascistic “guarimba” street demonstrations which in 2017 claimed the lives of dozens of Venezuelans, targeted Black and Brown people, and included fire-bombings of public buildings, a maternity hospital and more. While in 2015 Washington political establishment mouthpiece Foreign Policy Magazine exposed and detailed López’s involvement in the short-lived 2002 coup of the capitalist elite against Bolivarian Revolutionary hero Hugo Chávez, among other violent exploits, today the New York Times, Washington Post and other outlets of the corporate-owned media uphold López as a legitimate political figure and fighter for human rights akin to Martin Luther King, Jr.

United States and regional partners a broken record

Despite all the evidence, a slate of electoral victories over the last three years, and popular support for the progressive Great Patriotic Pole electoral alliance of which PSUV and the Communist Party of Venezuela are members, the government of the United States has not backed down from its claims that a Venezuela led by Maduro is a threat to U.S. national security and a dictatorship with sham elections. The U.S. has been working overtime, using the so-called Lima Group of empire-friendly Latin American countries as well as the Organization of American States to further try to diplomatically isolate Venezuela and discredit the May 20 elections.

The Lima Group is a relatively new formation founded in 2017 mainly in reaction to Venezuela’s successful National Constituent Assembly process. The Organization of American States is known to many as the “U.S. Ministry of Colonies” due to the fact that it has functioned largely as a tool of empire against nationalist and socialist movements in Latin America since the McCarthyite era of anti-communism and the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

In a bizarre, racist move, a bipartisan group of U.S. legislators has even tried to discredit Venezuela’s elections by insinuating that “despotic foreign powers like Russia and China” are somehow involved in propping up Maduro’s “dictatorship.” The U.S. embassy in Venezuela got into the act, Tweeting a cryptic warning for Americans to avoid demonstrations or political gatherings in the lead-up to the May 20 election for fear of violence. Whether this is an attempt to promote the fizzling call for protests made by the extreme wing of the opposition or to dissuade journalists from covering the massive mobilizations of progressive Maduro supporters around the country is not clear.

Solidarity from the peoples of the Americas

In light of this heated rhetoric, leftist president of Bolivia and friend of the Bolivarian Revolution, Evo Morales, has warned that the U.S. may be planning with its regional partners to stage an invasion of Venezuela, one which he pledged, “will be thwarted by the dignity, sovereignty and unity of [the] democratic peoples” of the region.

All progressive and revolutionary people should stand with the truly progressive peoples’ movements of Latin America and the Caribbean, in full support of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, the socialist vision for the future of the region and in defense of the right of the sovereign peoples of Venezuela to chart their own course.

More information here about upcoming solidarity events in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.