In a surprise move, the Maduro regime announced today that it would hold a presidential election no later than April 30. The announcement came via PSUV vice president Diosdado Cabello, whose request to hold the vote early was approved by Maduro’s Constituent Assembly this afternoon.
The election announcement sent shockwaves throughout the country, as just five days ago Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez announced that the vote would not take place until the second half of 2018.
Speaking at the Constituent Assembly, Cabello said that the reason for his request had to do with the sanctions that the European Union placed on him and six other regime officials yesterday for their involvement in human rights violations. Reference “media lynching” and “psychological wars” he claims are being waged against Venezuela, Cabello said:
We believe that imperial powers have been [conducting] hate campaigns through media lynchings and psychological wars in order to generate unrest, which is why we propose before this National Constituent Assembly that we choose our president in the first four months of 2018. In other words, before April 30 we should have elections in Venezuela to choose the president.
If the world wants to apply sanctions [against us], we will apply elections [sic].
Constituent Assembly president Delcy Rodriguez praised Cabello’s motion after he introduced it, and welcomed the chance to hold yet another election in the country by saying:
This Constituent Assembly has written yet another page by adoption a historic decision in light of the threats, the moribund Venezuelan right wing (…) Only we are people. Only we can defend this land. In only eight months, Venezuela heads into a fourth electoral event for the defense and sovereignty of our people (…) Only we can guarantee victory and peace in Venezuela.
Maduro Set to Run as PSUV Candidate
Maduro was quick to announce his desire to run as the PSUV candidate for the upcoming presidential election, saying that he would be happy to do so if Venezuelans wanted him to. Maduro made his candidacy known during an event in Caracas, in which he also said:
We are going to fight a great battle, [and] we will be victorious.
During the same address, Maduro urged the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) to hold the elections as soon as possible, saying:
If it were up to me, we’d to them this Sunday.
If elected, Maduro would continue to be Venezuela’s president until 2025.
Maduro also spoke on the sanctions placed on seven regime officials by the European Union yesterday. Arguing that the sanctions–which only affect the travel privileges and property of the seven named individuals–are in fact against all of Venezuela, Maduro said:
No one sanctions the people of Venezuela, and we will respond with everything diplomatic [sic], because we are not going to stay silent.
Even though the sanctions were placed on the officials by the European Union, Maduro said that they in fact came from the “decadent government of Donald Trump”.
CNE Rector: We Cannot Guarantee Free and Fair Election
Luis Emilio Rondon, one of the five heads of the CNE–the government body in charge of organizing and holding elections–said today that the organization cannot not guarantee a free and fair presidential election were it held in April given lack of time to prepare.
Rondon also criticized the Constituent Assembly for overstepping its power by calling for the election, since according to Venezuelan law only the CNE has the power to do so.
Opposition Figures React Tepidly to Election Announcement
News of the early presidential election appears to have left many opposition leader stunned, as some took to social and traditional media outlets to voice unclear opinions about the announcement.
The head of the Accion Democratica (AD) party, Henry Ramos Allup, called the announcement a “reprisal for the application of sanctions” against regime officials, and that the opposition candidate for president had to be chosen via a primary vote.
Former Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles took to Twitter to call for “unity more than ever” from the opposition, but shied away from condemning the Constituent Assembly’s measure.
National Assembly deputy Freddy Guevara–who has been taking refuge inside the Chilean embassy in Caracas since early November–sent a tweet calling for the opposition to “build a joint position” to the early presidential election.
Int’l Reaction to Election Announcement Overwhelmingly Negative
The international community reacted to the news out of the Constituent Assembly in an overwhelmingly negative fashion.
Heather Nauert, a spokesperson with the U.S. State Department, was asked by Reuters if it would be a good idea for Maduro to run again. Nauert was taken aback by news of the early vote, and said:
That is news to me. I don’t think so. I don’t think that that’s a good idea. Certainly the people would have to decide.
The government of Mexico made its sentiment known by pulling out of its facilitator status from the PSUV-opposition talks that have been taking place in the Dominican Republic since December. The announcement came from Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray, who said:
I want to announce (…) that in light of the decision to hold presidential elections in the first four months of this year, the government of Mexico has decided to not participate in the political negotiations between the government and the opposition in the Dominican Republic.
Mexico’s withdrawal likely means the end of the talks, since the opposition only agreed to participate in the process if it included regional governments, including that of Mexico.
Arguably the strongest statement against today’s election decision came from the Lima Group, which is made up of 12 regional governments who are committed to seeing democracy restored in Venezuela. Following a meeting in Santiago de Chile today, the Group released a statement, part of which reads:
- We reject the decision of the Government of Venezuela to hold presidential elections in Venezuela during the first quarter of this year. This decision renders it impossible to hold democratic, transparent and credible elections, in accordance with international standards, and contradicts democratic principles and principles of good faith in the context of the dialogue between the Government and the opposition.
- We demand that presidential elections be called with reasonable advance notice, with the participation of all Venezuelan political players and with all pertinent guarantees, including the participation of independent international observers. Elections that do not comply with these conditions will lack legitimacy and credibility.
The Lima Group includes Canada, which issued a statement through its Global Affairs Twitter page:
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