Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro officially won a second term yesterday, in a vote qualified as a sham by the country's main opposition parties and members of the international community.
Maduro received a landslide 68 percent of the vote, though a low turnout of 46 percent belies the legitimacy of the win, reports Reuters. The past two presidential elections had about 80 percent turnout. The country's main opposition coalition did not participate in the election and called on supporters to boycott elections without guarantees of fairness. Many of the parties were disqualified from running, and main opposition leaders were banned.
Polling stations in both government and opposition dominated areas were emptier than in past years, and the main opposition coalition claims turnout was even lower, at about 30 percent, reports the Washington Post. A source within the electoral agency told Reuters that turnout as of 6 pm yesterday was only 32.3 percent, reports the BBC. An exit poll cited by the Miami Herald found only 17 percent participation. Social media was full of desolate polling stations.
As of yesterday, Maduro had about 5.8 million votes, compared to opposition candidates Henri Falcón with 1.8 million (21.2 percent) and Javier Bertucci with 925,000, reports the New York Times. That is 1.5 million votes less than Maduro obtained when he was elected in 2013.
For some the government didn't even have to rig the vote due to the uneven playing field it created.
Falcón accused the governing party of pressuring voters yesterday. Though the government said checking in after the vote could not be linked to individual votes, many citizens feel authorities could track and punish opposition votes.
Venezuelans who voted yesterday scanned social security cards ID cards in hopes of obtaining prizes, a practice critics said was akin to buying votes from citizens terrified of losing much needed food aid, reports Reuters separately. In a recent New York Times op-ed, Human Rights Watch's Tamara Taraciuk and Provea's Rafael Uzcátegui document how government control of accessibly priced food has been abused by the administration.
The U.S. State Department and the 14-member Lima Group said they would not recognize the legitimacy of the results, reports Reuters. The U.S. threatened a new round of sanctions, and the regional governments represented by the Lima group said they would seek to financially isolate the Venezuelan government, reports the Miami Herald. Allies including Cuba and Bolivia sent congratulations.
The Guardian quotes WOLA's Geoff Ramsey who predicts sanctions against Venezuela's oil sector in the near future.
In the wake of the disastrous election campaign, the two main opposition coalitions have promised to unite, reports the Associated Press. But Maduro's most significant enemy by now is the country's crushing economic crisis, according to Bloomberg.
The New York Times Español opinion section has snippets from hardships on the ground from Venezuelans battling hunger and lack of medicines.
- Anti-mutiny police attacked a protest of university students on Saturday night, wounding four and violating the terms of an just started national dialogue, reports Confidencial. On Friday the Episcopal Conference, which is mediating talks between the government and protesters, announced a "48 hour truce," in which the government committed to retire police to barracks and call off armed sympathizers, reports Confidencial separately. The rector of the Universidad Naional Agragria, Telémaco Talavera, criticized the attack on the institution's students, despite being a prominent government supporter.
- The attack comes in the midst of a visit from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which visited the site of the attack on Saturday, reports Confidencial. The fifteen person mission received over 3,000 citizen denunciations over the past few days, the visit is aimed at investigating the repression of protesters against the government starting in April, reports La Prensa. The mission also visited health and detention centers as part of its investigation, reports El Nuevo Diario. In Masaya over 100 victims and relatives gave testimony to the IACHR, reports Confidencial.
- There are still six people unaccounted for, after the corpse of one missing student was accounted for last week, reports Confidencial.
- On Friday the national dialogue talks continued for eight hours, behind closed doors. The government was represented by foreign minister Denis Moncada. The IACHR mission was also present on Friday, and protest representatives reproached government officials for refusing protesters medical attention at health centers, reports Confidencial.
- The deaths of three human rights defenders assassinated over the past couple of weeks in Guatemala are a demonstration of "... a deteriorating climate for the defence of human rights in..." the country, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. (See last Tuesday's briefs.)
- Leftist presidential candidate Gustavo Petro closed his campaign yesterday with accusations of potential electoral fraud in May 27's vote, reports EFE. The allegation were made in reference to the software which will be used, which he said an electoral observers were unable to monitor.
- The newly active Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) temporarily suspended an extradition process involving FARC leader "Jesús Santrich," last week, reports RCN. The decision was heavily criticized by the government, opponents, and even sectors within the JEP, reports La Silla Vacía.
- La Silla Vacía compares the presidential candidates' stances on key issues, such as the peace accord-mandated crop-substitution program for coca growers.
- A 40-year-old plane leased by Cubana de Aviación crashed and killed 110 people on Friday, is a demonstration of the national airline's crisis, affected by economic mismanagement and the U.S. embargo, reports the New York Times. The Mexican charter company which owned the plane has been the subject of two serious complaints in the past decade, reports the Associated Press.
- Mexican presidential candidates debated yesterday, but each promised to demand more respect from the U.S. Trump administration, while emphasizing the importance of a good relationship with the U.S. reports the Washington Post. Front-runner Andrés Manuel López Obrador's opponents sought to paint him as an out of touch old-school politician, while he portrayed the other candidates as members of a corrupt elite. AMLO, who is significantly in the lead, sought to deflect hard questions, according to Reuters, and stayed in good humor despite barbs from his opponents aimed at riling his temper.
- Mexico's national electoral institute (INE) hired a cyber security company affiliated with billionaire Carlos Slim to protect the country's voting system for the July 1 presidential election. For some, the decision is polemic given Slim's confrontation with AMLO, reports Forbes.
- In a passionate letter published in Le Monde last week, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defended his candidacy in October's elections. "I am a candidate in order to give dignity back to the poor and outcast, guarantee their rights and give them hope of a better life," he wrote, describing obstacles he overcame over the course of his political career. Lula is currently in jail on a corruption conviction, that would likely disqualify his candidacy. He cannot however be preemptively barred from running said the Supreme Court today, he must be allowed to present his candidacy. Lula continues to lead in polls for the presidential elections.
- Candidates must be registered by Aug. 15, and the field is still wide open. Americas Quarterly reviews the situation as is, including the probability that right-wing firebrand Jair Bolsonaro will pass to a second round, despite (or because of?) his constant stream of troubling commentary.
- Former president Dilma Rousseff told the BBC that Lula would have a stabilizing effect on democracy if he could run.
- Major international oil companies are flocking to the region, seduced by liberalized energy markets in Brazil and Mexico, reports the Wall Street Journal.
- Pope Francis announced on Saturday that Oscar Romero, who was the archbishop of San Salvador, will be canonized in October, reports EFE.
- El Salvador Perspectives has the details of an informal community's eviction in San Salvador. " ... Their story is an all too familiar one of the powerlessness of the poor against the plans of the rich and powerful, their lawyers and a compliant judicial system."