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How to prevent another failure of democracy in Venezuela (May 18)
May 18, 2020

Man at voting booth in front of a colorful mural
A voter chooses his candidate next to a mural of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during presidential elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, May 20, 2018. Amidst hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine Chavez successor, President Nicolas Maduro is seeking a second, six-year term in an election that a growing chorus of foreign governments refuse to recognize after key opponents were barred from running. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

It’s been two years since the illegitimate election of Nicolás Maduro, during which time Venezuela has plunged into even greater turmoil and suffering.

Within five days of the May 20, 2018, election, 46 countries declared the results illegitimate, according to the Electoral Integrity Project. The Project is an independent academic program based at Harvard University in the United States and the University of Sydney in Australia.

The reason so many countries decried the election? Evidence continued to come to light that exposed the election as fraudulent.

Two photos of polling stations
Left: A man casts his vote (© Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images). Right: Electoral workers wait for voters. (© Ricardo Mazalan/AP Images)

Voter turnout during the 2018 presidential election was historically low, which suggests voter suppression, according to the Electoral Integrity Project. Venezuela’s National Electoral Council reported that 46 percent of voters went to the polls to cast a vote while, according to Associated Press News, turnout in the previous three presidential elections averaged around 79 percent.

In addition to a record low voter turnout, State Department officials found other ways that the elections were unfairly manipulated.

Since Maduro was first elected, his regime:

  • Unconstitutionally allowed the Supreme Tribunal of Justice — instead of the Venezuelan National Assembly — to appoint regime loyalists to the National Electoral Council, which was borne out in 2016 when the National Electoral Council blocked a recall referendum against Maduro.
  • Banned major opposition parties and leaders from participating in the election.
  • Stifled the free press, even though Venezuelan election law dictates that all press coverage be free and fair. Maduro’s cronies dictated most media coverage, which unfairly favored Maduro.
  • Traded food for the votes of hungry Venezuelans, using the Fatherland Card to track who voted for Maduro and then subsequently rewarding them with government food boxes.
Woman carries a box in a crowded street
A woman carries a box of food provided by the government in Caracas on May 16, 2018. Voters feared losing food deliveries if they didn’t vote for Nicolás Maduro. (© Ariana Cubillos/AP Images)

To avoid a repeat of the undemocratic elections of 2018, the democratically elected National Assembly and the U.S. State Department have put forward a new national framework to restore democracy to Venezuela.

The framework proposes a “broadly acceptable transitional government to administer free and fair presidential elections,” to root out the preexisting corruption of the Maduro regime and start afresh while also fully adhering to the country’s constitution, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in a statement.

“We believe this framework protects the interests and equities of all Venezuelan people who desperately seek a resolution to their dire political, economic, and humanitarian crisis, and who know Venezuelans can have something better,” Pompeo said.