By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Andres Velasquez has been tear-gassed by the National Guard and his position looks untenable.
Sunday night, the CNE electoral board posted information to its website stating the one time governor of gold-rich Bolivar state had been elected to the position again, after almost two decades after he stepped down.
But almost 48 hours after Sunday election, Velasquez still has not been officially notified: the CNE post with all the data was taken down.
The National Guard has taken Bolivar’s capital city, Ciudad Bolivar, and there have been skirmishes between Velasquez’s followers and the military.
And Velasquez’ is only one of the dramas that erupted after the Maduro-controlled CNE announced that the government had won 17 of Venezuela’s 23 state governments Sunday, a claim that prompted the opposition to cry fraud and demand an audit and recount, a cry that has been joined, so far, by 15 governments -- as well as the Secretary General of the Organization of American States -- including the United States, France, Spain and a group of 12 regional governments (“Grupo de Lima”) that are highly critical of Maduro, and which includes Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru.
A picture on Velasquez’ Twitter tells the whole story: “The governor elect @AndresVelasqz stands firm in front of the CNE #CiudadBolivar the people by his side demanding that his victory is recognized.” In the image, soldiers and citizens face down under the hot sun, riot shields held up high, tempers seemingly about to flare, again.
It’s a replay of the Constituent Assembly elections in late July: Maduro tries a dicey, barely legal move to enhance his power, but it blows up in his face. The Constituent was rejected as fraudulent by 40-plus governments and the Venezuelan opposition.
“Grupo de Lima”, which already criticized Maduro’s Constituent initiative, was even harsher in its condemnation of Sunday October 15th’s regional elections, describing an environment of fraud and violence in which no fair vote could take place, and asking for a full audit, internationally supervised.
The group’s statement in full reads:
“In the face of the different obstacles, acts of intimidation, manipulation and irregularities that characterized the elections carried out in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on October 15th, 2017, and which cast doubt on the vote’s results, the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru consider it urgent that an independent audit of the whole electoral process is carried out with the assistance of specialized and renowned international observers with the purpose of clarifying the controversy generated by the results of said vote and thus learning the true pronouncement of the Venezuelan people.”