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The Venezuelan State publicly opposes free elections

Photo archive El Ucabista

The Venezuelan Electoral Observatory (OEV, for its acronym in Spanish) has presented in its Bulletin No. 47 important conclusions on electoral matters regarding the Universal Periodic Review of Venezuela. The remarks come at a time when the revival of negotiations between the government and the opposition is still being evaluated and they urge civil society and the international community to focus their strategies on favor of free elections in Venezuela.

In a general count by the CIVILIS organization, out of a total of 328 recommendations addressed to the Venezuelan State, compliance with international commitments was the block with the most recommendations (33.8%), followed by that of democratic institutions (23%). The State rejected a total of 59 recommendations between both blocs, denying its will on issues such as the International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), judicial independence, democratic elections, investigating the FAES (extermination police), releasing political prisoners, putting an end to repression and criminalization, reestablish closed media and revoke Administrative Ruling 002 (which puts civil society in check). According to these numbers, the State clearly opposes recommendations that are essential to recovering democracy and the observance of human rights in the country.

Of the 59 unsupported recommendations, 6 were electoral-related matters, out of a total of 10. According to the OEV, the 6 unsupported recommendations have in common the demand for free elections. France and Georgia agreed to a negotiated solution to the crisis through free and fair presidential and legislative elections; Israel and Brazil agreed that guaranteeing free and transparent elections serves to “restore democracy in the country”; the United Kingdom and Chile agreed to put on the table the key institutional elements of free elections, such as “respecting the independence of political parties, lifting the arbitrary disqualifications of dissidents, not nullifying the popular will by judicial decisions” and in general, “guaranteeing the independence of the National Electoral Council and the Supreme Court of Justice”.

In stark contrast, the State supported Belarus’s complacent recommendation “to present its new and modern electoral system (…) as a positive experience of political participation” and Norway’s generic recommendation to “continue to seek peaceful and inclusive solutions through negotiations to the benefit of the Venezuelan people”. Additionally, the State considered that the recommendation of New Zealand to “ensure respect for democratic rights (…) in electoral processes” and of Ukraine to “take all necessary measures to guarantee a free electoral process (…)” were being complied with.

In this way, Venezuela does not accept recommendations to overcome the crisis while accepting those that allow it to maintain the status quo. In official words, the group of rejected recommendations “are far from the constructive spirit of the UPR and constitute a concrete example of the politicized use of human rights to attack a sovereign State”, while the group of accepted recommendations “were drafted with a constructive spirit and in strict adherence to the founding principles of the UPR”.

“The politicization of the electoral issue” to which the Venezuelan State refers is nothing more than a form of repeated disqualification of the crisis, which also seeks to hide the centrality that the electoral issue has acquired for the international community. There is a growing global interest that seeks to advance the electoral agenda as a fundamental key to the Venezuelan crisis. According to the OEV, the “increasing proportion of electoral recommendations in the UPRs of Venezuela (zero in the first cycle, five in the second and ten in the third) could be interpreted as a warning from the international community about the deterioration and failures in the previous Venezuelan electoral cycle, which should not be repeated in the next one”.

In a context of growing international attention on electoral problems, the current message from the State, however, is at once challenging and alarming: there is no political will to even consider the option of free elections in this period. This statement must be understood in its entirety. If the analysis of AlertaVenezuela is taken into account, where it is explained why Venezuela said goodbye to the UPR, weakening international cooperation, it follows that what the State is not just a “message”, but a State position, which will come out stronger to the extent that the government continues to disregard the recommendations of, and close the doors to, independent international monitoring mechanisms such as the FFM, the IACHR, and the UN Special Procedures, and further weakening, through political pressure, existing on-ground mechanisms, as in the case of the OHCHR’s presence in the country.

Venezuela has publicly and unequivocally said that it does not want genuine elections. In the absence of elections, what other legitimate way out is there? Without elections, the worsening of the crisis and the evil of continuing to alleviate the consequences -with more and more difficulties- are assured. Allies for democracy and human rights in Venezuela must understand the structural importance of this issue and refine advocacy strategies to push for free and democratic elections in Venezuela as one of the highest priorities, if not the main.