Elections in Venezuela: the vote as a spectacle | Opinion


A group of citizens holds a portrait with the image of former President Hugo Chávez at the closing of the campaign of Carmen Meléndez, candidate for mayor of Caracas, on November 18.
A group of citizens holds a portrait with the image of former President Hugo Chávez at the closing of the campaign of Carmen Meléndez, candidate for mayor of Caracas, on November 18.LEONARDO FERNANDEZ VILORIA (Reuters)

Are there elections again in Venezuela? The question grows old and fades quickly. Maybe it doesn’t even make the news. It is not a novelty. Neither the elections nor their outcome will bring major surprises. It’s a party that needs too many quotes. It is already very seen. It fails to excite anyone. It’s a remake of a remake of a remake even older. Rather than deciding between different options or candidates, the only real dilemma that citizens seem to face is having to choose between voting or abstaining. The rest is part of a predictable scenario. Are there elections again in Venezuela? So that?

Authoritarian regimes tend to invoke their electoral events as a forceful argument before those who accuse them of being dictatorships. During the intoxicating oil bonanza at the turn of the century, Hugo Chávez squandered elections in the most classic style of “cheap ta, give me two.” In less than two decades, the country had more than twenty elections. They were always magnificent opportunities to exercise the Commander’s narcissism and demonstrate to the world an excellent assumption. average democratic. This statistic –which increased public spending with each campaign– disguised the opposite process indoors: while they added elections, with stubborn patience, Chavismo was dismantling the institutional framework and undermining the country’s fragile democracy.

Nicolás Maduro had a different reality. The collapse of Chávez’s policies and the fall in oil prices exposed the glamorous mirage of the revolution. Without money and without charisma, it is very difficult to keep Bolivarian socialism calm. Very soon, Chávez’s heirs began to impose themselves by force. They created a parallel parliament and made all the public powers subject to it – also unconstitutionally – Maduro as president.

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But institutional violence was not enough. They ended up turning the state into a war machine against the population. The report presented last year by the UN Human Rights Council is devastating, terrifying. Not in vain, the International Criminal Court has just decided that there are sufficient and compelling reasons to investigate the Government of Venezuela for crimes against humanity. In this context, any electoral contest seems a bit absurd. It’s like stepping into a boxing ring with a Chinese checkerboard under your arm.

The Government of Venezuela does not respond to any internal requirement. What happens in the country does not matter to him at all. It only moves bound by international sanctions. Only foreign pressure has managed to return Chavismo to a slight modesty, to return not to democracy but, at least, to its simulation.

For this reason, for the regional elections on Sunday 21, the political disqualifications that weighed on some leaders and parties were eliminated. For this reason, the electoral referee (CNE) – for the first time in almost two decades – has among its members a minority representation of the opposition. That is why –also- a mission of the European Union will participate as an observer of the process… While it is true that there are probably now more advantages and guarantees than in recent years, it is also true that the process continues to be poorly balanced and that, now, the mood of the population is greater. Hope is a non-renewable natural resource.

On the other side, there are not many alternatives either. After the failure of the insurrectionary adventures and the natural evaporation of the fantasies of an invasion promoted by Donald Trump, the opposition leadership has returned to what already seems to be an element of its nature, of its identity: the cannibal condition. Without a common plan, divided and confronted, the adversaries of Chavismo have dedicated themselves to fighting more among themselves than to building a possible unitary alternative. While Guaidó fades in his virtual government, the illusion of a common project is even more fragile in times of electoral scramble.

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The antagonism between those who think that –even with all the disadvantages and shortcomings– it is necessary to take advantage of the political space, participating in elections, and those –on the contrary– who believe that doing so simply legitimizes the dictatorship, is only the starting point of a process that has ended up offering voters a show deplorable: the eternal return of the old caciques of always; parties that impose candidates from the machinery on the younger leaderships, with real work in the communities; fast-paced dirty wars between two or more would-be opponents to the same position… Unintentionally, some of the opposition’s electoral campaigns have ended up being effective abstention promotions.

In the midst of such a bleak scenario, many civil organizations and some part of the population have insisted on defending the vote as a tool for the re-institutionalization of the country. They are citizens who do not want to renounce an experience that defines them, who do not want to miss an exercise of power that – beyond all adverse circumstances – determines a method, gives meaning to public life, gives the possibility of expressing what they are and what they believe.

It is not possible, however, to turn the dilemma between voting and abstention into an ethical issue. It is not about making moral judgments about different positions. Without a political project, in addition, the dilemma between voting or not voting loses its density, becomes an artificial conflict. It does not matter either of the two exits. It is useless to participate or not in the elections if there is no unitary leadership and program that really knows what to do before, during and after the electoral event. The result is not an end in itself but a means, another means, in the difficult and slow journey to bring democracy back to the country.

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Both Chavismo and the opposition have clearly shown the utilitarian sense that leads them to participate in the elections this Sunday. Meanwhile, a good part of the citizens who will go to the polls are those who, rather, try to rescue the true political dimension of the vote. It all sounds weird. In a country where – according to the IMF – inflation will close this year at 2,700%, these elections seem even more like a forced ceremony. An empty show.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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