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Venezuela: the final frontier of utopia

On May 19, on the eve of the presidential elections called by the Constituent Assembly of Nicolás Maduro,a topic became a trend in Venezuela on social networks throughout Saturday: #RoyalWedding. This in itself is an indicator of how uninteresting the votes were to which Venezuelans were summoned the following day, which in official figures showed a 52% abstention .

The “official” tagline in the participation data is relevant, because the unofficial figures reported by Reuters at 6 o’clock in the afternoon (formal time for closing the tables) were 32%. A few hours later, when the first part was announced, the figure rose to 48%. Still giving it for good, a 52% abstention is a record mark in what was the oldest democracy in the region. In 1958 the Venezuelan democracy was inaugurated with only 6.6% of abstention. And it was growing in subsequent processes: in 1963 to 7.8%; in 1968, 3.3%; in 1973, 3.5%; in 1978, 12.5%; in 1983, 12.3%; in 1988, 18.1%; in 1993, 39.9%; in 1998, the first victory of Hugo Chávez had a 36.5% abstention; in 2000, 43.4%; in 2006, 25.3%; in 2012, that of Henrique Caprilesagainst Chávez, it reached 19.5%; and in 2013, when Maduro was announced the winner, 21.4%.

The abstention is the expression of apathy and dissatisfaction of the majority of the electorate to an empty convocation in another Maduro attempt to “flee forward”. He called for some early presidents while negotiating the electoral conditions in the Dominican Republic and behind them, as a ruse that sought to run over the dialogue process. The call to the polls was made by the National Constituent Assembly, which in turn had been another fledgling madurista forward to escape the recall referendum.

The parties of the Democratic Unity Table, with the now outlawed First Justice and Popular Will at the head, as well as the Church and a broad conglomerate of social forces grouped under the common denomination of Frente Amplio, decided not to participate electorally. They have claimed fraud of the convocation, of the process and of the own elections. They are not alone: ​​44 countries have done the same, including the G7 multilaterals and the Lima Group.

 

But singing fraud is common among those who lose elections. What is it that makes it different this time? We know well that there are no perfectly perfect choices. There were none in the Venezuelan democracy, and since 1998 they have been progressively becoming more imperfect. All politicians cling to the command and it is the institutions that put a brake on the excessive desires of power, natural in the ethos of the politician. We could say that “politicians are chavistas by nature”, paraphrasing the Polish political scientist Adam Przeworki . Despite her utopian rhetoric, or rather for herself, since Chávez’s arrival to the presidency, her greatest effort was in the destruction of the institutional scaffolding.

The simile of the inclined court that is used so much to define unbalanced electoral systems is very good: the court has progressively been tilted until it is practically impossible for the opposing player to score goals. But now it has gone further in three very perverse senses. In the first place, the government abrogated the power to choose its contender. Any opponent of sufficient stature to challenge him in a presidential contest is imprisoned, exiled, disqualified or killed. Second, voters are incomplete this time. It is estimated that some four million Venezuelans, or up to 20% of the electoral roll, have left national borders. In theory they would have the right to vote, but only 100,000 are registered to do so, since the administrative obstacles to do so are many and varied. Third, hyperinflation prevents any trace of electoral normalcy. It is a process that leads millions of people not to aspire daily to go beyond mere subsistence. In this context, the government installed an electoral system that is really an apparatus of social domination based on hunger. Venezuelan hyperinflation is a monster of apocalyptic proportions that generates death, destruction and exodus in its wake. How canthe person responsible for that monster being reelected? Only with a fraud of similar size.

 

venezuela_hiperinflation

Source: The Washington Post

 

Few countries in the world have recognized the president as “re-elected”. Russia, China, Cuba, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Belarus, Nicaragua and Bolivia are some exceptions. The list looks like that of members of a sordid authoritarian club, but an effort to stop the Venezuelan catastrophe must include some of these countries, probably Cuba itself, as a key player.

The future does not look promising in the short term. The post-election pressure will continue, more sanctions will come, the financial asphyxiation will be consolidated, there will be more episodes of alienation of oil assets and the exodus of Venezuelans will be deepened by land, with strong demographic pressures to other nations of the subregion. Maduro’s “forward flight” has led the country, and itself, into a deeper abyss. Finally, the balance will be imposed after a costly process, which nobody can foresee in detail but which is already emerging in international pressures, the institutional movements of the National Assembly and the deep concern in the military sector.

There will be a certainty: Chávez dreamed utopia and Maduro made dystopia a reality.

-CARMEN BEATRIZ FERNÁNDEZ

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