In a resounding show of support for the opposition, Patricia de Ceballos and Rosa de Scarano won the mayoral races in San Cristobal, Tachira and San Diego, Carabobo, respectively. Patricia de Ceballos won in San Cristobal with 73.69% of votes cast, while Rosa de Scarano won in San Diego with 87.9% of the votes. Mayoral elections were held in both municipalities today after the mayors of each city – Daniel Ceballos of San Cristobal and Enzo Scarano of San Diego – were removed from office and imprisoned by the Maduro government back in March as a result of their alleged involvement in the protests.
The elections came amid an atmosphere of unrest in the country. Ceballos and Scarano were originally removed from office after nebulous charges were laid against both men for failing to control the protests in their respective municipalities. At the time, the move was denounced by human rights organizations as an assault on the democratic process, as both mayors had been elected democratically to their posts. The two men suffered through trials of questionable legality, with the trial of Enzo Scarano in particular standing out as an obvious affront to the principles of justice.
In light of the conditions that lead to the removal of both men, the elections today garnered national attention as a kind of referendum on the behaviour of the Maduro government. The PSUV had assured that it would win both municipalities, and had they done so, the victories would have signalled a rejection of the protest movement, at least in the two municipalities in question. The victories of the opposition candidates today are an obvious sign that at least in the two cities, the opposition is strong.
Before the results were announced, Maduro had this to say to the future winners:
Opposition: You can govern municipalities and states only through elections, and democratically. I will recognize as mayor whoever wins there. I will call them and invite them to our meetings. If they go crazy and start to burn down their cities again, the authorities will act. And if it comes to removing them from office, on behalf of the judiciary, we will obey [the order] and we will call new elections, I don’t know, every three months we will have elections there until we have peace.
Maduro’s threats to hold elections on a regular basis in the municipalities in question “until we have peace” are extremely troubling. His assertion that mayors who “go crazy and start to burn down their cities again” would be laughable if there were not so problematic. Neither Ceballos nor Scarano “went crazy” and started to burn down their respective cities. Indeed, the question of what crime – if any – they committed will never be answered, since their trials were such an obvious miscarriage of justice.
The message Maduro is sending here is clear: “If I don’t like you, I’ll have you imprisoned, and we’ll have an election until the candidate I like gets elected”.