Under normal conditions, regional and municipal elections in Venezuela would not make headlines in international news. However, the elections this Sunday, November 21, 2021, may be one of the most important in the recent history of the country. Not so much because of the result they can produce but because of the process itself, since the path that the country will take will depend on it as well as the nature of its relationship with the so-called international community.
For years, the Western powers have made the normalization of their relations with the Venezuelan government conditional on the holding of free and fair elections. Now that the European Union and the United Nations have sent electoral observation missions to Caracas, what will happen if they conclude that the process has been transparent? Will the United States and its allies be mature enough to respect and accept the results and their consequences, even if they are favorable to Chavismo and Maduro?
The United States and some of its Western allies have used allegations of electoral fraud as the basis for their policy of unilateral sanctions against Venezuela in recent years. The irony of this does not go unnoticed by anyone, since much of the Republican party in the United States considers to this day that the election of the president of their own country, Joe Biden, was the product of a rigged electoral process. Those who are willing to sing fraud in the United States just because the results of the polls have been adverse to them, should at least refrain from teaching the world lessons on electoral neatness.
For now, the most notable news of this Venezuelan electoral process is that absolutely all the political parties have decided to participate. In addition to the aforementioned missions sent by the EU and the UN, US foundations such as the Carter Center or Latin American party groups such as COPPAL will accompany the process. Such progress has been possible thanks to the designation, at the beginning of the year, of a National Electoral Council (CNE) with representation from Chavismo and the opposition, the result of an agreement reached within the new Venezuelan National Assembly, to which yet Westerners have refused to acknowledge.
These elections, together with a process of dialogue that ranges from the political opposition to the private business community affiliated with FEDECAMARAS, mark a turning point. And in any case they demonstrate the generalized rejection of the Venezuelan society to the policy of unilateral sanctions, confrontation and boycott with which the Venezuelan issue has been approached from abroad.
Before the first vote has been cast, the elections are already being criticized by ex officio spoilers who, from the United States, have made it clear that they will not accept the results unless they are in accordance with their interests. They are the same people who advocate imposing more sanctions, intensifying the economic blockade, and sometimes even dream of a military intervention. Some of these extremists have not hesitated to threaten the European Union itself for daring to take the path of reconciliation and compromise.
President Nicolás Maduro, for his part, has given clear signs of wanting to turn the page and overcome his differences with the countries that have promoted the policy of “regime change” in Venezuela. The organization of universally accepted elections is an essential part of this process, and seeks to guarantee that it is not a rhetorical compromise.
Beyond the political tirade, the right of the Venezuelan people to live a normal life has to be respected. Venezuela has never represented a threat to security or regional or world peace and, on the contrary, it would contribute greatly to balance and prosperity in Latin America if only it were allowed to normalize its situation. The failure of current policy is evident, and this is clearly the time for a change of course.
The unilateral sanctions of the United States prohibit the financing or refinancing of any Venezuelan government entity, as well as public oil exports, a resource that has historically represented the vast majority of state revenues. The sanctions have not only had a devastating effect on the country’s economy, but have also made it impossible to finance sectors fundamental to the well-being of Venezuelans such as health or education. For their part, the excesses in compliance with these measures by European institutions, in theory not subject to US law, have aggravated the country’s isolation from the global financial system.
No matter how much they seek to justify them with other arguments, the sanctions were imposed with the objective of generating an economic collapse under the assumption that it would cause a regime change. A policy designed by sorcerer’s apprentices at the expense of Venezuelans, who have had to bear the consequences of their far-fetched laboratory hypothesis.
The negative effects of the coercion imposed by these measures have also been significantly compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. To date, Venezuela has not been allowed to receive a penny of the emergency financing deployed by the IMF, nor has it been able to effectively access the 5,000 million dollars in Special Drawing Rights that correspond to it, as part of the recently issued by the Monetary Fund to alleviate the financial burden of the pandemic on member countries. While in developed countries the levels of public debt and monetary creation have reached historical records, Venezuela has had to face the pandemic alone, without even being able to normally export its raw materials.
Venezuelans, mainly affected by this absurd situation, cry out for a return to normality in which the elections on November 21 must participate. If the international community wants to help the elections run in the best possible way, it must of course be committed to accepting their results, regardless of who they favor. Only then will it begin to align its policy with the sovereign will democratically expressed by Venezuelans.
Temir Porras Ponceleon is a professor at the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences-Po Paris. Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs (2007-2013).
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