By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- As expected, the government managed to paint the map of Venezuela red, landing 331 municipalities and leaving the opposition with only four, in city government elections marked by violations and abstention Sunday. At one point during the journey, head of government Nicolas Maduro offered to pay voters.
“We have the duty to listen to the more than 70% of Venezuelans that didn’t vote,” tweeted losing candidate for the Chacao municipality, Robert Garcia, in conceding remarks. Gustavo Duque, for the opposition, won that mayoralty, which has never been in “chavista” hands.
People didn’t vote, not even after Maduro went on live television offering them money to do so. In the afternoon, embattled head of state Nicolas Maduro said those PSUV ruling party militants voting with“el carnet de la patria” (a government welfare ID which is being used by the Regime to offer food for loyalty) would receive a “reward”, a promise that was latter repeated by Erika Farias, the winning candidate in Libertador, the largest municipality in Venezuela.THE POWER OF THE CARNET
Tellingly, in the days leading to the elections, holders of “the Fatherland ID” received Bs 500,000 from Maduro.
Equivalent to only $5 at the parallel exchange rate, that “Christmas bonus” as Maduro described it is still almost two months of minimum wage salary and compliments other benefits “carnet” holders receive, such as access to subsidized foodstuffs and free health care (which in theory is the province of all Venezuelans, but in practice has been restricted for non-holders, according to local media reports).
In spite of Maduro and Farias offers, abstention was between 50% (according to the government) and 80%, according to the opposition and preliminary data from city races.
Analyst Luis Vicente Leon said that, all in all, Sunday’s elections were not representative of Venezuela’s political map.
“The President’s option is still in the minority”, Leon tweeted Sunday night.
The oil-rich nation is in the midst of a nascent humanitarian crisis, a fact the government begrudgingly admitted earlier this year. Some 80% of Venezuelans live in poverty, with 50% in “critical poverty”, a concept that is difficult to grasp for First World denizens: It basically means eating once a day and being one step removed form homelessness, with no access to health care or any other public services.
75% of the country’s labor force of 10 million-plus people make minimum wage, less than $2 a month. And 75% of the workforce does not have a high-school diploma, including Maduro himself, according to his published resume.
Observatorio Electoral Venezolano published a report listing 85 violations of electoral law, including one instance of an opposition witness being threatened with jail by a PSUV party representative. However, that’s nothing new: 52% of all opposition mayors in Venezuela have some sort of judicial measure against them, a situation that made campaigning for reelection impossible for the majority of them.