Venezuela's regional elections went about as well as you'd expect

You might have missed it in the flood of other news over the past week, but there were elections held in Venezuela! No… not new presidential elections or selections of an actual legislative body. (Don’t be silly… Nicolas Maduro was never going to go for that.) But there were regional elections to select the governors of the various regions, the mayors of the cities and other municipal and regional positions.

So how did that turn out? If you’re at all familiar with the methods of the ruling socialist party (harkening back to the days of Chavez) and their peculiar idea of “fairness” you won’t be surprised to learn that the government has declared Maduro’s party the winner in a landslide. Yes… you may now scoff as you see fit. (Associated Press)

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council said candidates for the socialist movement founded by the late President Hugo Chavez won nearly all of the 23 governorships up for grabs in Sunday’s regional elections. Opposition leaders disputed the accuracy of the vote count.

Independent pollsters had projected the opposition would ride a wave of discontent over Venezuela’s economic calamity and win a majority of the state elections for the first time in nearly two decades of socialist rule.

Tibisay Lucena, the pro-government president of the electoral council, said socialist party candidates won 17 of the 22 races in which the outcomes were considered “irreversible” late Sunday. One race was still undecided.

Imagine that. In a country where people regularly take to the streets in droves to protest the abuses of the tyrant who has effectively terminated the elected government and established a dictatorship, the party of the dictator in question “won” nearly all the major races. Isn’t democracy a miracle?

Maduro was quick to express his “absolute faith” in the results posted by the Electoral Council. And how could he not? They wouldn’t dare put up a number that might anger him. But not everyone was sharing the President’s optimism and confidence. The remaining opposition party leaders who are somehow not in prison and still willing to speak out were less than sanguine about the results.

[S]hortly before Tibisay Lucena, president of the government-stacked council, declared the results, opposition mayor Gerardo Blyde came out to warn that leaders believed the official count would be off.

“We have already alerted the international community and we are alerting the country,” he said.

Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, is quoted as saying, “There is a wide disparity between the poll numbers and the results which show that these elections were not free and fair and don’t reflect the will of the people. I think that’s going to deepen the polarization.”

It’s difficult to see how any international effort is going to give the people of Venezuela a shot at an actual, honest election at this point. You could turn Diogenes loose with his lamp all over the government buildings in Caracas and he’d die of starvation before completing his mission. Some of us have been fretting over this situation and sounding the alarm for at least the past two years, but the moment of opportunity has clearly passed. Democracy in Venezuela (such as it was before all of this) has entirely failed. The people are under the thrall of a tyrant who enriches himself at the expense of his people and imprisons or simply murders those who dare to speak out against him.

The solution? There isn’t one as far as I can tell. Venezuela is well on its way to becoming another hermit kingdom in the mold of North Korea and Iran. And Maduro will have the support of both China and Russia to prop up his collapsed economy going forward. Unless and until there is some sort of populist revolution (which would be a prolonged and bloody debacle itself) the good guys have lost another one in South America.

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