The European Union’s electoral observation mission has the immediate future of a nation in its hands. The report that emerges from the 130 observers who will be distributed throughout Venezuela on Sunday to witness the municipal and regional elections in which the opposition will participate for the first time in five years will mark the short-term route out of the political and social crisis in which the country is immersed.
A favorable result for the organization of the elections, with the obvious limitations that are produced by the Chavista control of the State apparatus, would legitimize the way of negotiation and reconstruction of the institutionality from within the system that a part of the opposition has undertaken, on the everyone who lives in the country. They believe that this is the way to organize presidential elections in a few years with certain guarantees in which the president, Nicolás Maduro, can be defeated. Another opposition faction considers that Chavismo does not have the will to give up power and that the participation in these elections to which it wants to give a democratic appearance, in its opinion, screws Maduro in the Miraflores Palace.
The mission therefore has sensitive material on its hands. The observers were deployed on Thursday from Caracas to all corners of the country, the 23 states, including the Amazon, the most difficult to access. “We will report any irregularity to the CNE (National Electoral Center). So far nothing has happened, everything is fine, everyone is making an extraordinary effort, ”explains Isabel Santos, Portuguese Socialist deputy and head of the mission.
In the European Parliament, not everything has been a consensus around this adventure. The European People’s Party decided not to send any MEP. “The PPE is not part of this electoral farce of Maduro in Venezuela,” said Deputy Dolors Montserrat to justify the absence. His thesis agrees with that of the most rigid opponents, who see this as a maneuver by Chavismo to buy time, insofar as the country’s situation improves very slightly with the dollarization of its economy and gains some credit on the international scene. Venezuela, however, is today the poorest country in Latin America.
Observers have been criticized by both sides. María Corina Machado, a staunch opponent, despised their work and invited them to go to the border, where armed conflicts have been triggered by the presence of guerrillas and criminal groups, or to hospitals to see the shortage of medicines. One of the most prominent Chavista politicians, Diosdado Cabello, campaign manager for the PSUV, the ruling party, said on his television program that some of the observers had the attitude of “spies.” “They do not know how the Chavista people are capable of defending the revolution with their teeth.”
Join EL PAÍS now to follow all the news and read without limits
The head of the mission will stay in Caracas throughout the election day. He estimates that more than 1,200 polling stations may be pending.
– In all of them there will be a representative of the opposition?
– I can not know it. I will be aware of whether or not it happens and it will be said in the report.
– Have you observed a full disposition of the Venezuelan Government?
– So far I have not found otherwise.
Santos, whose second on board is a Spaniard, the Galician Xabier Meilán, will also include in his report the development of the electoral campaign. This, by all accounts, is uneven. The ruling party relies on the state apparatus to campaign. Some cities are plastered only with the faces of the Chavista candidates, as if the others did not participate. In addition, the PSUV collects data from voters at its street tables to provide them with the social bonus or the Clap, a food bag. There is no clear distinction between party and government. The CNE, for example, has initiated a file against Maduro for taking the Chavista candidate to a municipality in Caracas at the inauguration ceremony of a water treatment plant. The problem is that the resolution will be made once the elections are over.
In addition to the presence of the observers, as a gesture of opening the Government gave the opposition two of the five executive positions of the CNE, a gesture that led to the formation in August of a negotiating table in Mexico. Those talks were an important step because they laid the foundations for the format of these elections, although in mid-October Maduro suspended the dialogue after the extradition to the United States of Alex Saab, an alleged financial operator of Chavismo. One of the new positions of the electoral authority is occupied by the opposition Enrique Márquez, appointed deputy director. “It is very difficult to alter the result,” explains Márquez in his office. He says that a few months ago a group of academics carried out a complete inspection of the entire voting system. The process was relayed by streaming.
The report, according to Márquez, concludes that the system is “reliable, robust and safe.” The fingerprint system of the CNE bank has also been audited. If an error occurs in the biometric identification of a voter, the members of the polling station would have to request a special authorization from the CNE. If it happens a second time, it will be re-audited. In case of a third the system will be blocked. “Thus the fraudulent multiple vote is impossible,” he adds. “That does not mean that everything is fine,” continues Márquez, “there are many things that are wrong.” But in Venezuela the winds of change are blowing. We have returned to a very difficult but indispensable route: politics. For there to be a democracy we have to rebuild the institutions that allow democracy to exist ”.
The mission will have a preliminary report of what happened on Tuesday, 48 hours after the polls close. In about two months it will publish the final document, although the general conclusions will be the same. Santos’ words, therefore, could have an important effect on the route to follow for Venezuela.
Subscribe here to the newsletter from EL PAÍS América and receive all the informative keys of the current situation of the region.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.