CARACAS – The president of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature Julio Borges said in an exclusive interview with EFE after the ruling party defied the polls to win a vast majority of governor’s offices that those elections had been marred by irregularities and further eroded people’s confidence in the voting process.
Borges made his remarks just days after Sunday’s balloting, in which the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 18 governor’s races and the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition captured just five.
Polls prior to the election had indicated the MUD would win a majority of those races.
“What the government has done in all the elections is destroy confidence in the vote,” said Borges, a finalist along with other Venezuelan opposition leaders for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
The winner of that prestigious award will be announced on Oct. 26.
Borges, the only member of the joint Venezuelan candidacy who is not behind bars or under house arrest, accused President Nicolas Maduro’s government of rigging the results of Sunday’s gubernatorial voting.
Authorities controlled the balloting “through hunger ... mandatory ID cards that people needed to show to be able to vote, through everything that involves coercion of public employees and ... political and armed control of voting centers,” he said.
But even though the National Assembly – the unicameral legislature – has declared Sunday’s balloting fraudulent and called for an international audit, Borges said the opposition would continue working to ensure people feel confidence in the system as a path for effecting political change.
He said the Venezuelan opposition and the National Assembly would persist in denouncing the irregularities in the electoral system both inside and outside the country to ensure greater international pressure is applied on Maduro’s administration.
“So people feel that we’re months away from achieving a political change if the conditions and pressure are in place to have an extraordinary presidential election,” Borges said.
The presidential balloting is scheduled for next year, although the National Electoral Council (CNE) has delayed and suspended regional elections (including the gubernatorial elections) and other votes – such as a planned recall referendum aimed at ousting Maduro – in recent years.
He said human rights in Venezuela had evaporated and that people were now being forced to look for something to eat in the garbage or even dying due to food and medicine shortages in the Caribbean nation over the past three years, a situation he said had been exacerbated by a deep economic recession.
“With all of Venezuela’s wealth in oil, in (natural) gas, in gold ... we have people who can’t get medicine and are dying. Or they don’t receive treatment and become more ill. There are millions of people who have left the country because there’s no future, no freedom, no guarantees,” Borges said.
Asked about the possibility of winning the Sakharov Prize, which is accompanied by a 50,000-euro ($58,840) cash award and will be handed out at an award ceremony on Dec. 13 in Strasbourg, France, he said the European Parliament could send an important message by bestowing this honor on the Democratic Opposition in Venezuela.
Borges noted that that candidacy consists of the National Assembly, which he insists is the true representative of the Venezuelan people, and political prisoners such as politicians Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma.
He contrasted the national legislature with the recently created, plenipotentiary National Constituent Assembly (ANC), made up exclusively of Maduro’s allies and rejected as illegal by the opposition and much of the international community.
Maduro says the formation of the ANC, which took over the powers of the legislature in August, was necessary to lift Venezuela out of a deep political and economic crisis and bring peace to the country after months of opposition-led protests that led to at least 125 deaths.
But the opposition says the creation of that body, which first met in August, was merely a cynical ploy to sideline the national legislature.