By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS – Nicolas Maduro started his reelection campaign for the April Presidential elections Thursday afternoon without separating himself temporarily from the office of the President or waiting for the CNE electoral board to announce the beginning of the campaign period, as mandated by Venezuelan law.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro on Friday morning reiterated that Presidential elections in Venezuela – with Maduro sitting in the Miraflores Palace and no noticeable changes to the electoral system – would be “a farce.”
“Those are not elections! People will not get to elect! Maduro controls all and every electoral variable, like it has done in the last elections, like it will do again in the next Presidential elections in order to stay six more years,” Almagro said from the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“Venezuela today has collapsed completely, from a political, institutional, economic and social standpoint, living the worst humanitarian crisis of any country in the world. The government is just imposing an authoritarian, tyrannical order on its people. This has actually driven the country further away from democracy,” Almagro concluded.
And, in spite of those and similarly strong opinions, an official campaign video and slogan “Juntos Podemos Mas” (“together we can more,” which, in true Maduro fashion, is a couple words short of a full sentence), while the opposition is still trying to figure out whether or not to attend its own slaughter.
But, analysts and critics say, that is par for the course in Venezuela, were egregious, aggravating and aggregating violations to the law are just a way of running for President. After all, this is the way Maduro ran for President in 2013: from the office of the President, without separation, and overlapping his own campaign with the month-long funerals of his mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chavez. After three months of that, he won by just a couple of hundred thousand votes in polling ridden with cheating.
His rival, Henrique Capriles, denounced Maduro’s victory as fraudulent. The court not only threw Capriles case away without hearing it, the Governor of Miranda state was banned in 2017 for running for any elected office for the next 15 years.
The most voted party in Venezuelan electoral history, opposition coalition MUD, was banned from running by the Supreme Court on Thursday evening.
The two big, surviving MUD members, the social democrat “AD” and center-right “Primero Justicia” parties, must collect enough signatures over the January 27-28th weekend so that the Maduro-controlled electoral board CNE decides that they can run in April.
Voluntad Popular, the party of Leopoldo Lopez and one of the most popular members of the MUD, was banned from running, as was Lopez who was sentenced to 13 years for "subliminally" inciting violence.