Nepal | August 13, 2020

Maduro favored as Venezuelans vote amid crisis

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Share Now:

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro makes the victory sign after a meeting with former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, at the presidential palace, in Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday, May 18, 2018. Photo: Associated Press

CARACAS: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is expected to win a second six-year term in Sunday’s election, despite a deepening crisis that’s made food scarce and inflation soar as oil production in the once wealthy nation plummets.

More than 1 million Venezuelans have abandoned their country for a better life abroad in recent years, while those staying behind wait in line for hours to buy subsidized food and withdraw cash that’s almost impossible to find.

While polls show Venezuelans overwhelmingly blame Maduro for their mounting troubles, he’s still heavily favored to win thanks to a boycott of the election by his main rivals amid huge distrust of the nation’s electoral council, which is controlled by government loyalists.

Maduro ended his campaign Thursday dancing on stage before a cheering crowd in Caracas while blaming Venezuela’s increasingly dire outlook on a US-orchestrated “economic war.”

“I extend my hands to all Venezuelans so that we can move forward together with love and take back our homeland,” said Maduro, the hand-picked successor to late President Hugo Chavez, who launched Venezuela’s leftist revolution. “I have seen the future of Venezuela and a historic victory awaits us.”

On Friday, the Trump administration added Diosdado Cabello, a key Maduro ally, to a growing list of top officials targeted by financial sanctions, accusing the socialist party boss of drug trafficking and embezzlement.

Maduro’s main rival, independent candidate Henri Falcon, has faced the dual challenge of running against a powerful incumbent while trying to convince skeptical Venezuelans to defy the boycott called by the main opposition coalition.

Blasting Maduro as the “candidate of hunger,” he has campaigned on a promise to dollarize wages pulverized by five-digit inflation, accept humanitarian aid and seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund — all proposals Maduro has rejected as tantamount to surrendering to the U.S. “empire.”

“I swear that I will liberate Venezuela from this dictatorship,” Falcon shouted to supporters at his final campaign rally Thursday in his home city of Barquisimeto. “I swear it in the name of God.”

Also on the ballot is television evangelist Javier Bertucci, who has cut into Falcon’s support by providing free soup at rallies.

Around 80 percent of Venezuelans believe Maduro has done a bad job, yet turnout is expected to be the lowest since Chavez was elected in 1998, with only 34 percent saying they are certain they will vote, according to recent polling by Datanalisis.

The election has drawn broad criticism since some of Maduro’s most-popular rivals were barred from running, and several more were forced into exile. Echoing the views of Venezuela’s tattered opposition movement, the United States, European Union and many Latin American countries have already said they won’t recognize the results.

In addition, pressure tactics honed in past campaigns have kicked into overdrive, further tilting the playing field in Maduro’s favor.

Almost 75 percent of households said they received government-issued food boxes in the past three months, according to Datanalisis, and Maduro on the stump has promised that the 16.5 million holders of the fledgling “fatherland card” will be rewarded for their vote. Just to be sure, so-called “red points” will be set up outside voting centers checking peoples’ cards, which are needed to access social programs.

“This is neither a competitive or democratic election, and the result may not reflect the preference and decision of the voters,” said Luis Vicente Leon, president of Datanalisis.

Still, some question the wisdom of not competing in an election, even if it is widely seen as rigged.

A 2010 study by the Brookings Institution covering 171 electoral boycotts around the world — from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe — found that such maneuvers rarely succeed in rendering elections illegitimate in the eyes of the world. Instead, the boycotting party usually emerges weaker and the incumbent empowered.

Javier Corrales, a Venezuela expert at Amherst College, said the opposition’s sit-out strategy could be as disastrous as its boycott of congressional elections in 2005, which led the ruling party to sweep all seats and pass legislation removing presidential term limits that further strengthened Chavez.

“The irony is that this is the least democratic election of all but it’s also the best chance the opposition has ever had,” said Corrales. “If Maduro wins by a large margin, he’ll take it is as a green light to continue radicalizing and moving in the direction of completely destroying the private sector.”


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Party virus more dangerous than COVID, says CM Gurung

POKHARA, AUGUST 11 Gandaki Province chief minister Prithvisubba Gurung has said that more than the coronavirus it was the virus inside the party that had created trouble. Speaking at the 21st anniversary and award-distribution programme organised by the Federation of Nepalese Indigenous Nation Read More...

Worldwide virus cases top 20 million, doubling in six weeks

It took six months for the world to reach 10 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus. It took just over six weeks for that number to double. The worldwide count of known COVID-19 infections climbed past 20 million on Monday, with more than half of them from just three countries: the US, India Read More...

Coronavirus vaccine: Russia ahead on track, who is next?

KATHMANDU: Over 150 vaccines are being developed and tested around the world to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, of which 28 are in human clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, Russia has become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 Read More...

Former Mayor of Janakpur passes away in Lalitpur, was diagnosed with Covid-19

JANAKPURDHAM: Former Mayor of Janakpur Krishna Giri, who had contracted Coronavirus infection, has passed away. Giri breathed his last at Lalitpur based Mediciti Hospital on Tuesday night. According to sources, Giri, 72 had pre-existing heart condition. He was brought to Kathmandu for treatmen Read More...

Children in Beirut suffer from trauma after deadly blast

BEIRUT: When the huge explosion ripped through Beirut last week, it shattered the glass doors near where 3-year-old Abed Itani was playing with his Lego blocks. He suffered a head injury and cuts on his tiny arms and feet, and he was taken to the emergency room, where he sat amid other bleeding peop Read More...

Asia's World Cup qualifiers postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19

Qualifying matches in Asia for the 2022 Qatar World Cup have been postponed until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic, world governing body FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation said in a statement on Wednesday. The second round of Asian qualifiers were originally scheduled to take Read More...

Outcry in Somalia as new bill would allow child marriage

JOHANNESBURG: An outcry is rising in Somalia as parliament considers a bill that would allow child marriage once a girl’s sexual organs mature and would allow forced marriage as long as the family gives their consent. The bill is a dramatic reworking of years of efforts by civil society to brin Read More...

Coronavirus found on Ecuador shrimps in China, state media says

BEIJING: A city in China's eastern Anhui province found the novel coronavirus on the packaging of shrimps from Ecuador, state media reported on Wednesday, in the latest instance of the virus being detected on imported products. The coronavirus was found on the outer packaging of frozen shrimps Read More...