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Advancing elections is discriminating against more Venezuelans abroad

Maduro at a political rally of the ruling party, October 7, 2022. Photo by Correo del Orinoco

On October 7, within the framework of a political rally of the ruling party, Nicolás Maduro expressed his intention to hold presidential elections in 2024 “or before (…) in 2023”, after a verbal exchange with a ruling party governor on the matter. Hours later, the presidential press service issued a tweet confirming the above: “#LastMinute | President @NicolasMaduro does not rule out early elections in Venezuela.”[1]

This new interference by Maduro in electoral issues takes place a few days after his announcement on September 12 in which he stated that there will be “regional, municipal and parliamentary elections in 2025”, along with his willingness to undergo “presidential elections in 2024”[2].

At least since the most recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and after the UN and EU reports on the November 2021 electoral process, the government has been offering consistent signs of its unwillingness to compete in authentic elections, be it by rejecting recommendations on the matter[3], or by issuing acts to interfere in the process[4]. The absence of minimum conditions and guarantees for elections in the country translates into the impunity that Maduro enjoys to shape the electoral agenda according to his interests and modify the game’s rules at all times. It is an accumulated power to bring about electoral fraud, label them “elections”, and increasingly take advantage of its position of disproportionate advantage.

There are no political costs to the government for its public statements and for all the actions and omissions that constitute a restrictive environment for genuine elections. One way to push for these costs is to assume the electoral issue as a basic human rights claim. Every time Maduro assures, among other things, that he will advance elections, or hold “mega-elections”, he is not simply harming the political opposition, which is evident. These declarations are consolidating a system of abuses that, although they affect the right of all Venezuelans to free elections, cause a differentiated impact on a particular group: on the more than 4 million Venezuelans who, living abroad, feel increasingly distant their right to participate. As cross-border mobility continues, the number of discriminated Venezuelans is on the rise[5].

The inclusion in the electoral system of Venezuelans abroad does not have enough mourners. Perhaps one of the reasons is that the seriousness of this problem is not understood. The situation of a Venezuelan in Venezuela who can vote, even fighting conditions of governmental excessive advantage, is not the same as that of a Venezuelan abroad who cannot even register in the process. The latter is the victim of the logic of discrimination targeting Venezuelans outside the country, fed through practical obstacles, disqualifications, and even the dissemination of harmful narratives, which has coincided with particular impediments to the enjoyment of their rights, in particular their rights to identity, consular protection and participation[6].

The government continues to treat Venezuelans abroad as people unworthy of participating in public affairs. Their status as electorally excluded has resulted in despair and distrust in the democratic system. A reality where the government has not provided spaces to resolve this issue and that, on the contrary, displaces it by sowing divisions and repressing civic space, cannot be treated by civil society and political forces, as a subordinate issue, that is, minimizing the centrality of the elections by invoking supposedly more important reasons. The demand for authentic elections must be developed with the same intensity as the demand for other human rights and the humanitarian crisis. What is at stake is no less than the possibility of changing the system responsible for the existence of a complex humanitarian emergency.

AlertaVenezuela has called on previous occasions to prioritize the electoral agenda guaranteeing the right to vote for Venezuelans abroad[7]. The establishment of a roadmap based on the recommendations of the EU Election Observation Mission becomes more urgent as a new electoral blackmail looms. It is essential to put in practice a broad social platform in defense of the right to participate in an electoral process without undue restrictions.