As expected, the Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was re-elected on Sunday, even though the country is experiencing an economic and social crisis.
Venezuela’s electoral commission (CNE) claims that Maduro won by 68 percent and that a total of 5.8 million people voted for him.
However, considering the dire situation in Venezuela, the reelection appears to be rigged.
Maduro’s administration has about a 22 percent approval rating.
But right before the election, he ramped up fear tactics and attempted to control voters with the limited food supply. Maduro also barred popular opposition candidates from running against him.
“Look how much have they’ve underestimated the people of the revolution,” said Maduro after winning the election. “Look how much they’ve underestimated me, and here we are once again — victorious!”
Maduro’s closest rival, Henri Falcon, received 21 percent of the votes but is demanding a recount claiming the election was fraudulent.
Before the election, some polls predicted that Flacon should win.
“A recent poll by Datanálisis suggests that Mr Falcón should win. It puts his support at 28% of registered voters. Mr Maduro and Mr Bertucci are roughly even at 17% each. Mr Falcón’s chances depend on anti-Maduro voters overcoming their sense of hopelessness to turn up at the polls,” writes The Economist last week before Sunday’s election.
Only 48 percent of Venezuelans made their way to the voting polls, which is much less than the turnout in 2013, which was at about 80 percent.
Some groups are claiming that even the turnout percentage was incorrect.
“This time, the main opposition coalition, the Broad Front, called for a boycott, saying the election was a sham, and there was only a trickle of voters at many polling stations. The coalition said turnout was under 30 percent,” writes The Financial Times.
Venezuelans feel so helpless that they think even if the election outcome was different and Maduro’s opposition won, things wouldn’t get much better.
“I ignored the election completely. We all did,” said hotel worker Pedro Cañas to The Financial Times. “Honestly, Venezuela’s problems are so severe that I don’t think any of these guys can solve them — not Maduro, not Falcón, no one.”
Maduro’s reelection has harbored global criticism. The U.S. is preparing to slap the country with even oil sanctions.
“The next step is sanctions against the oil sector,” said Diego Moya-Ocampos, a principal political analyst for Latin America at IHS Markit, to CNBC. “This is crucial because (Venezuela’s) oil sector represents 25 percent of GDP (gross domestic product), 50 percent of fiscal revenues and 97 percent of revenue from foreign exchange… So, obviously, sanctions on the oil sector in Venezuela will be a game changer.”
The Trump administration has repeatedly threatened to impose these sanctions.
“In response to the vote, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order restricting Venezuela’s ability to liquidate state assets and debt in the United States, the latest in a series of sanctions that seeks to choke off financing for the already cash-strapped government,” writes Reuters.
The oil sanctions could potentially accelerate the country’s inevitable demise. The U.S. is Venezuela’s number one customer.
“Oil sanctions would be devastating to the Venezuelan economy and to the regime’s internal stability as they would very strongly impact the revenues that flow through the patronage regime,” said Fernando Freijedo, Latin America analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, to CNBC.
Venezuela’s oil production has dropped roughly 40 percent since 2015 to only1.4 million barrels a day.
But the plunging oil output, lack of food, and hyperinflation aren’t the only factors causing Maduro’s government to lose support.
“Cracks within the chavista government are widening. The former ambassador to the UN (and head of PDVSA) and the former attorney-general are in exile. They accuse Mr Maduro of corruption and crimes against humanity. Most of his main advisers are subject to sanctions by the United States and the European Union for drug-trafficking or undermining democracy. These could become harsher and target more people. The government has jailed some 60 officers in the army, whose support is vital to the regime’s survival. The charge, it is thought, is that they plotted against it. On May 11th the president of neighbouring Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, predicted that “a change in the regime” will happen “very soon,” writes The Economist.
Author’s note: The recent sham election proves that democracy in Venezuela is dead. There was no other possible outcome besides Maduro winning. Venezuelans will need to organize a revolution in order to survive.