Armando Chaguaceda & Maria Isabel Puerta
HAVANA TIMES — As the parliamentary elections of December 6 draw near, Venezuela’s electoral climate has shown no few signs of institutional partiality, abuses of power and political violence, in a country that has regrettably been described as one of the world’s most dangerous.
The communiqué issued by Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro, addressed to the Chair of the National Electoral Council Tibisay Lucena, responding to her refusal to authorize an OAS monitoring committee and reminding the official of her duties as the representative of a public office and the rights of citizens (particularly those of an opposition that does not enjoy equal rights in this electoral process) has been significant indeed.
The statement makes mention of unrestrained use of State resources for the government’s electoral campaign, restrictions on opposition access to public media, the use of deliberately confusing electoral materials and other actions by the State, as well as the declaration of states of exception in border areas and the unfolding of Operacion Liberacion del Pueblo (“People’s Liberation Operation”).
These heightened conflicts come to fuel the flames of an already tense situation, as evidenced by recent developments such as a series of violent acts against different political figures, including parliamentary candidates Miguel Pizarro and Rummy Olivo, regional leader Henrique Capriles and political representative Lilian Tintori, all of whom have been the object of aggression by groups that identify with government forces. This came to a head with the assassination of a leader of Accion Democratica (“Democratic Action”), Luis M. Diaz, secretary general of the party in the locality of Altagracia de Orituco, state of Guarico, towards the center of Venezuela.
This violence has prompted condemnation from the Venezuelan people and international organizations such as the OAS, as well as from political leaders, including Colombian President Juan M. Santos and the President of Spai, Mariano Rajoy, among others. The conflicts have been exacerbated due to proceedings in Federal Court brought by the United States against two of the Venezuelan First Lady’s nephews, accused of planning to smuggle a shipment of drugs into the country. This has prompted serious questions within sectors of the opposition, forcing government forces to respond defensively or, in the best of cases, to avoid its discussion altogether .
In the last stretch of the electoral race, predictions as to the activation of emergency mechanisms for the allocation and distribution of resources, such as food, household products and real estate, have not met expectations. The last weekend before the elections, several states had announced the setting up of food locales operated by the MERCAL chain. However, and despite the proximity of the elections, complaints by customers have flooded social networks, in response to the suspension of food sales, encouraging rumors of food shortages, internal rifts within the government or simple bureaucratic hurdles.
Over recent weeks, the levels of discursive and institutional violence shown the opposition have risen, restricting the ability of political actors opposed to the government to mobilize, both through legal and practical channels. Public officials in different ministries and Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, far from representing citizens, continue to act as political commissars, neglecting demands in connection to faulty public services and the shortage of essential consumer products, as well as rising insecurity.
In electoral terms, the majority of polls continue to favor the opposition, though the most recent survey, conducted in November, reveals modest recovery by the government. That said, the climate of discontent and opposition to Maduro’s administration makes analysts predict that the opposition will fare better than government forces. This would explain the threats that government leaders from President Maduro to the Chair of the National Assembly, Dionisio Cabello, have voiced with respect to acknowledging a triumph of the opposition, sounding off alarms worldwide.