Tomorrow will see the next round of elections in Venezuela, where Nicolas Maduro will seek another term as the tyrant (or president, if you insist). Most of the opposition party leaders will not be on the ballot in the majority of races because they’ve been barred by Maduro’s electoral commission. Others are in jail or simply “missing.” Maduro himself is somehow facing two opponents, former regional governor Henri Falcón and evangelical pastor Javier Bertucci.
If you look at some of the scant polling coming from the few independent news outlets still able to cover Venezuela these days, Maduro looks like he should be in trouble. He’s almost dead even with Falcón and Bertucci is eating up a significant amount of support, though still behind the other two. But as NBC News reports this weekend, when the official vote count is released, Maduro will still likely “win” in a landslide.
Most of the opposition has decided not to participate in Sunday’s election and has called for a boycott. Their leaders have been barred from running, while others are being held in prisons or exiled. Much of the opposition claims the vote will be neither free nor fair and do not trust the electoral council, which is controlled by government loyalists…
Caracas resident Leobaldo Matos, 82, idolized Chávez and never imagined abandoning the ranks of his Bolivarian Revolution. But this Sunday he will back Falcón.
“I opened my eyes, Maduro isn’t Chávez,” he said.
At his home, not everyone feels the same. His daughter Margret, 42, a dentist with one young daughter, said she has always voted for the opposition. This time she will not go to the polls.
“I already know who’s going to win,” she said. “I feel tired of waking up the next day feeling robbed.”
Those voters have every right to feel discouraged. Maduro controls the electoral commission, the supreme court and the new superlegislative body which essentially dismantled Venezuela’s constitution and opened the path for him to be dictator for life. Even if too many votes for opponents do somehow wind up being cast, most observers agree that they will miraculously disappear or be disqualified on some technicality before making it to the final tally.
All of this is taking place while Venezuela continues to slide into third-world status or worse. Healthcare in the country has collapsed and diseases such as malaria and measles, formerly almost eradicated from the continent, are now surging again. Food shortages have reached the point where children are literally starving to death and many adults get only one meal a day. Their economy has long since imploded and their currency is virtually worthless for anything but wallpaper, with an inflation rate of more than 4,000%.
In the United States, a president gets worried about reelection if the unemployment rate gets above 5% or gas prices go up by a dollar. But in a dictatorship, the tyrant has no such concerns. An election will be held tomorrow and Maduro will declare himself and his cronies the winners. Meanwhile, that nation is spurring a refugee crisis, with more than a million Venezuelan citizens having fled the country in search of food and medicine. These are the wages of socialism. And at this point, there is precious little that anyone else can do to save them. Reuters is reporting that arrests for treason and desertion in the military are up significantly from last year, but there’s no sign of a general rebellion or coup in sight. If the people of Venezuela wish to be rid of Maduro they will probably have to take care of it themselves.