Venezuela’s Presidential Elections: The Battle Continues

Increasingly violent challenges to the legitimacy of the recent Venezuelan presidential elections have resulted in 7 deaths and 61 injuries since the April 14th election.

The “stolen votes” claimed by narrowly defeated opposition leader Henrique Capriles and his supporters as the reason behind (and excuse for) their encouragement of the deadly protests have no discernible factual basis, yet the United States continues to back Capriles in hopes that he will unseat Maduro and put an end to Chavismo.

Event panelistsOn April 22, 2013, at the Institute for Policy Studies, official election observers Alex Main of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Dan Kovalik of the National Lawyers Guild described their personal encounters with the reliability of the sophisticated Venezuelan election system – and with the persistence of anti-leftist U.S. interference in Latin America. The discussion between Main, Kovalik, and a diverse 30-person audience composed of community members, government officials, policy analysts, and students produced several key insights, all of which are conspicuously absent from the narrative constructed by Capriles-leaning mainstream U.S. news sources:

Venezuela’s election system is excellent.

Last year, Jimmy Carter described the Venezuelan election system as “the best in the world” for its multiple layers of safeguards against error and election-rigging. Venezuelan voters register at polling stations by thumbprint, cast their ballots electronically, and then receive a paper receipt listing the name of the candidate for whom they voted. Before leaving the polling station, voters must leave the paper receipt in a designated box.

54% of polling stations then undergo an auditing process, during which these paper receipts are separated by candidate, counted by hand, re-counted, and then checked against the electronic polling results. This 54% audit has already been completed for the April 14th elections.

Further legitimizing the results produced by the well-honed election process is the remarkably high voter turnout: an impressive 79% of the eligible voting population cast ballots in the 2013 Venezuelan presidential election.

The oppositions’ claims of fraud are blatantly fictitious.

During the IPS presentation, Main described how Capriles supporters have published pictures Audienceof sealed ballot-receipt boxes from past elections being destroyed, claiming they are un-audited boxes from this election.

Main also noted the sudden spurt of destructive attacks on health clinics by the opposition after false but widely circulated rumors suggested ballot-receipt boxes were being horded in the buildings to prevent the completion of a 100% audit.

A report released Saturday by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council dismisses all of Capriles’ claims as false, and notes that “there is no single record of irregularities in the signed records that were endorsed by all witnesses.”

The U.S. call for a re-count builds upon decades of anti-leftist U.S. meddling in Latin American affairs.

Maduro’s victory represents a continuation of Chavez’s leftist administration – and chavismo represents the liberation of Venezuela from U.S. dominance. The United States’ support for Capriles, and its refusal to recognize the reliability of Venezuela’s lauded election system, is a bold-faced display of its willingness to re-establish American influence in the United States’ “backyard”, as Secretary John Kerry recently – and tellingly – referred to Latin America.

The slim margin by which Maduro won the Venezuelan presidency highlights intensifying ideological divisions within the country. But whether Maduro will be able to maintain political continuity as Chavez’s standard-bearer is a question to be decided within Venezuela’s own borders, by its own highly reliable electoral system – and not by U.S. interference.

Listen to the opening presentations.