“Whoever calls for abstention calls for Maduro’s victory”
By Isaac Risco (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – Henri Falcón divided the adversaries of Chavismo by agreeing to be a candidate against President Nicolas Maduro in the Venezuelan elections on Sunday, May 20, a vote not recognized by more than a dozen countries and qualified as fraudulent in advance.
Falcon, a former Chavez militant and later the campaign manager of the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in the 2013 elections, explained to a group of international media, including the dpa news agency, why he believes that calling for abstention is a mistake even if the government of Maduro is a “cheat” and tries to stay in power at any cost, in the middle of the serious humanitarian crisis that Venezuela is going through.
These are some of his answers.
What is your political proposal?
Henri Falcon: I have participated in the two politically polarized structures in Venezuela (…) and there is a situation of acute political contradiction and confrontation in the country. I maintain that the path has to be negotiated. We must seek understanding in the country. A political negotiation, a national unity agreement is necessary.
But I also say: the road in Venezuela will always be electoral, democratic, and constitutional. Just as we have an authoritarian government of a dictatorial nature, unfortunately we have erratic sectors of the opposition, which have not interpreted the reality of the majority of this people.
Are you not afraid of fraud?
Henri Falcon: Every authoritarian government cheats. That is a condition of this Government, as they are underhanded and of a dictatorial nature. You can’t expect optimum conditions with such governments, they will never give them. Has any government anywhere of this type every given them? None. Now, that’s one of the big differences I have with some opposition actors. They decided to ask for guarantees and electoral conditions without participating, and we decided to fight for the electoral conditions and guarantees by participating. But the strategic goal is the same: change the Government, defeat Nicolas Maduro.
We also have to differentiate. When we talk about electoral conditions, we must differentiate them from the political conditions, those of the current moment of the country.
Today in Venezuela we are experiencing a hyperinflationary process that represents a tragedy for the whole country, especially for the most vulnerable sectors of the country. Today, this president and his government have a rejection of 82 percent of the population. Despite the call of abstention that they make (the opposing blocs of) the Democratic Unity Table (MUD) and the Broad Front, 65% of the population is saying: no, we want to vote, because we want change.
What do you say about the other opponents who accuse you of playing into Maduro’s hand by legitimizing the election?
Henri Falcon: You remember the demonstrations (from 2017). At that time there were statements (from opposition politicians) that said “street, street and more street”. That we were facing a dictatorship, that we cannot recognize those institutions … Then what happened. There were many killed, there was damage, there was a severe deterioration in the quality of life of Venezuelans. And those same politicians came out calling to vote. There was a double discourse, the incoherence. And it is about this being the last democratic election in the country.
Do you think it will be a democratic election?
Henri Falcon: Yes, because it is a choice foreseen in the Constitution. That Constitution belongs to Venezuelans. (Falcon participated in the elaboration of the current Magna Carta in 1999.) The controversial National Constituent Assembly elected in 2017 is currently preparing a new Constitution.
What is anyone saying people should abstain from voting offering the country? What can we expect from abstention? Maybe an oil blockade? That the Lima Group decides what we Venezuelans have to do? Or that a United States military force invades Venezuela? Or that the Venezuelan military hold a coup?
We are called to the democratic act of voting. That we are facing a perversity of a government, is true. But we defeated this government in similar conditions in (the parliamentary elections) of 2015.
Do you have poll watchers to guard the vote throughout the country?
Henri Falcon: We have them. To date 98 percent of what you know as the electoral roll is covered. It is true that we have to deal with an adversary like the Government, but we also have adversaries from within who seem to play into the current president’s reelection. Here those who call for abstention are practically calling for Maduro’s victory.
In 2015 there was a real [opposition] unity, there was a true strategy in defense of the vote, a single narrative, a single candidate. That is not the case today. But the conditions are not the same. We did not have so many people going hungry. We did not have a Chavismo so disappointed in this president. The Armed Forces are not the same. The soldier is also going hungry.
We did not have nearly three million Venezuelans abroad as we have now. The political, economic and social conditions are not the same. That’s why there is a great opportunity for success in this electoral process.
And what will you do if you believe a fraud took place?
Henri Falcon: We are going to protest, we are going to assert the will of the Venezuelan people. We will defend the results if they are violated either by political or administrative action of the National Electoral Council or the governing party.
As part of that policy of consensus that you propose, would you promote an amnesty for Chavismo officials if you become president?
Henri Falcon: There is no country in the world that can resolve a situation of economic deterioration like the one Venezuela is experiencing in the framework of a war or a confrontation.
We have said that there can be no political prisoners in Venezuela. But we also say that there can be no persecution or retaliation of others because they think differently, because it would be to repeat the same scheme. It is not that the radical left now comes out and the radical right enters.