Region Responds to Venezuela’s Election ‘Farce’ But Experts See No Speedy Resolution to the Crisis

By Mark Browne | May 23, 2018 | 9:03 PM EDT

President Nicolás Maduro on the campaign trail. (Photo: Venezuelan Presidency)

Mexico City ( – The Organization of American States has labeled Venezuela’s presidential election on Sunday a “farce,” but as countries in the hemisphere respond with diplomatic or economic measures some experts doubt external pressures will be enough to hasten the regime’s end.

The re-election of President Nicolas Maduro to another six-year term beginning next January saw a recorded turnout of 46-48 percent – the lowest in the country’s democratic history – compared to 70 percent in the 2013 presidential election.

Official results gave Maduro victory with 67.9 percent of the votes cast compared to his closest rival, Henri Falcón Fuentes, with 21.24 percent.

But the Maduro regime barred the two best-known opposition candidates, Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo Lopez, from participating.

As a result, voters stayed home in record numbers, according to Geoff Ramsey, assistant director for Venezuela at the Washington Office on Latin America.

“This is the highest abstention rate in Venezuela’s presidential election history.”

Ramsey said the “only meaningful solution to the political crisis in Venezuela,” is going to have to be a negotiated one.

“Everything we have seen suggests the prospects of some kind of military coup are very slim,” he said.

“The security forces have been extremely resourceful at purging dissidents from their ranks.”

OAS general secretary Luis Almagro Lemes called the election a “farce,” and added that “we do not recognize Nicolás Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela.”

“Venezuela needs a transitional government that can generate a legitimate electoral system, which in turn would allow for solutions for the country,” he said. “The worst thing that could happen to Venezuela is the prolongation of the dictatorship. The political system, its authorities, and its president are a fraud.”

The so-called Lima Group of countries – Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Santa Lucía – have refused to recognize the election result.

As a consequence, all 14 countries will reduce their level of diplomatic relations with Venezuela and lodge formal diplomatic protests with the regime, according to a statement by the group released by Peru’s secretariat of foreign affairs.

Sunday’s low turnout is a sign of “apathy and discontent” with the Maduro regime “throughout” the Venezuelan population, according to Michael McCarthy, a research fellow at the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies in Washington.

Maduro had sought to legitimize his government, but failed as a result of the low turnout.

McCarthy said it was too early to tell what long-term impact the result would have, if any.

While regime opponents won a “moral” victory with the high abstention rate, he said, the opposition needs to create a “window of opportunity,” to “get back in the game.”

“The question is, what are they going to do?”

President Trump in an executive order Monday blocked all U.S. transactions in Venezuelan government assets, debt, equity or collateral, in effect making it difficult for the government to liquidate assets in the U.S.

Moises Rendon, associate director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said sanctions may not be enough to force a regime change in Caracas.

“No matter how many sanctions they impose the regime is still going to be in power because of the internal divided opposition,” he commented.

Rendon said Venezuela was in a state of complete economic collapse, and was turning into an Afghanistan or Yemen.

“This is going to be a failed state ruled by a criminal organization, not willing to leave power anytime soon,” he said.

“Financially, things are getting pretty grim for the Maduro regime but in my view, I am not sure that is enough,” said Mariano de Alba, associate director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council.

“The economic crisis is not a guarantee of a change of government,” he said. “The real Achilles’ heel for the regime would be to lose the support of a faction of the military.”

Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA is a key source of income for the Maduro government.

But the firm is in full-scale collapse, production is the lowest in 70 years, and the Venezuelan government has no money to increase production, reports.

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