April 16, 2013
5:05 PM EDT: International Representation at Maduro’s Inauguration
Nicolás Maduro has just been sworn in as president of Venezuela. Despite the refusal of the United States and Venezuelan opposition leader to accept the legitimacy of the election results, an overwhelming amount of the region’s leadership showed up or was represented at Maduro’s inauguration today.
Reports say that a total of 61 diplomatic delegations, headed by presidents, prime ministers and vice presidents, among others were present at the ceremony. At least 17 presidents are reported to have attended.
All 12 of the UNASUR nations sent delegations to the inauguration, 8 of them headed by their presidents. All 33 of the CELAC nations (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) were also represented.
Delegations from Iran, including President Ahmadinejad, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East were present.
The following presidents attended:
Dilma Rousseff (Brazil)
Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia)
Raúl Castro (Cuba)
José Mujica (Uruguay)
Cristina Kirchner (Argentina)
Evo Morales (Bolivia)
Ollanta Humala (Peru)
Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua)
Porfirio Lobo (Honduras)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves (San Vicente and the Grenadines)
Prime Minister Keith Mitchell (Grenada)
Prime Ministers from Saint Lucia, Antigua, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis also attended.
2:55 PM EDT: William Hague Recognizes New President
This message was issued by the Secretary of State for the United Kingdom:
On the occasion of the inauguration of Nicolas Maduro as President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the UK Government looks forward to working with the Government and people of Venezuela to strengthen our relationship and deepen cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
We are concerned by reports of violence following the elections and call on all sides to work together to reduce tensions and to prevent further incidents.
See message here.
The swearing-in ceremony of President Nicolás Maduro has just completed, but uncertainty still surrounds the US position, as that country has still not yet recognized the results of the elections on Sunday.
11:25 AM EDT: Carter Center Statement on Venezuelan Elections Calls for Peace and Dialogue
The Carter Center, an organization that is widely trusted in election observation, released a statement yesterday calling for “Venezuelans to express their differences peacefully” and for a “sustained national dialogue to facilitate democratic coexistence.” Key sections of the statement read as follows:
The premise of this dialogue should be the mutual recognition of the political actors. Without this, the country cannot advance. The dialogue should include discussion about the minimum agreements needed to find solutions to the major challenges Venezuela faces, as well as how to define the rules and institutions that guarantee conditions of fair play during electoral campaigns.
According to the constitution, the National Electoral Council (CNE) has the legal authority to accredit the president-elect based on the election results. At the same time, the losing candidate has the right to submit a legal challenge in conformity with the procedures established by Venezuelan jurisprudence, and to expect that this challenge will receive the appropriate consideration from electoral and judicial authorities. Citizens have the right to express their demands and opinions peacefully, with state guarantees of their political and civil rights, as well as their personal security.
Clear and transparent information about the voting process and results, including responses to complaints, enhances confidence in and legitimacy of those results. The Capriles campaign’s formal submission of the irregularities they have identified, and an expeditious and full response from the CNE, should help to lower the tensions generated by the April 14 election results.
The Carter Center condemns all acts of violence, no matter their origin, and sympathizes with those wounded and the families of victims of politically-associated acts. The Center further alerts that expressions of verbal aggression and contempt for individuals create conditions for physical aggression, particularly in conditions of high tension like those Venezuela is experiencing at the moment. The Center encourages and applauds the adoption of measures and language to avoid violence or discrediting of those who think differently.
Read the full statement here. A complete report from the Carter Center is expected in the coming weeks.
11:10 AM EDT: CNE Announces Audit of Remaining 46% of Votes
The president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, announced yesterday that authorities will conduct an audit of the 46% of voting stations that were not audited on election night. The CNE’s process will mirror that of election night, comparing printed receipts to electronic voting records in a random selection of about two-thirds of the voting stations.
Lucena was adamant about the nature of the process, reportedly saying that under “no circumstance should this be interpreted as a vote count of any kind.” This statement was perhaps related to remarks made by the head of Venezuela’s Supreme Court, Luisa Estela Morales, stating that a vote-by-vote recount, as demanded by the opposition, is impossible due to the nature of Venezuela’s electronic voting system. At the time of the announcement, many in the press characterized the Supreme Court as a pro-government body siding against the opposition’s demands, rather than focusing on the nature of Venezuela’s electoral system and guidelines.
In response to the announcement, Capriles accepted the CNE’s decision and asserted his belief that the irregularities were in “about 12,000 ballot boxes” that would be audited in the forthcoming process. He was also quoted as saying that this “will show the truth to the country”.
Assuming that there were no voting irregularities found during the automatic audit of a random selection of 54% of voting stations, it appears unlikely that the announced audit will uncover widespread acts of fraud or inaccuracies.
The start of the audit process, which is expected to take a month to complete, will be announced next week. Lucena explained the process by saying, “We will select a sample that will be audited for 10 days and a report of the results will be emitted. This procedure will be repeated every 10 days for 30 days in the presence of witnesses from both camps.” Lucena also stated that the CNE’s decision was motivated by the desire to “preserve a climate of harmony between Venezuelans, but also to isolate violent sectors that are irresponsibly trying to harm democracy.”
10:46 AM EDT: UNASUR issues a statement congratulating President Nicolás Maduro and calling for peace
The various governments belonging to UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, issued a joint statement early today congratulating Nicolás Maduro for the results of the elections and as the new president of Venezuela. The statement also called for all parties who participated in the elections to respect the results announced by the electoral authority, the CNE.
UNASUR also reiterated their statements from Monday, just after the results of the elections were announced, that all objections, questions or extraordinary proceedings that are requested by election participants should be channeled and resolved within the proper legal framework. In this light, UNASUR looked favorably upon the CNE’s decision to audit the rest of the voting receipts.
Finally, UNASUR called for an end to all violent actions and attitudes that risked peace in Venezuela, and it launched a commission to accompany the investigation into the violence that occurred on April 15th.
5:36 PM EDT [April 18, 2013]: The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) have sent an open letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to recognize the results of Venezuela’s election. The letter from the UE – whose international affairs director was in Venezuela as an election monitor on Sunday – describes Venezuela’s electoral process in detail:
Unlike the system here in the United States, which is neither uniform nor trustworthy, the voting system in Venezuela is a unitary system that incorporates some 15 audits and is approved by the competing political parties at each step. Because the Venezuelan electoral commission or CNE has been the subject of intense criticism by the opposition, we wish to review in some detail the nature of the voting process.
Prior to the election, machines are sent out from the assembly and service plant in Caracas. They are set up and tested to make sure everything functions properly. The morning of the election, each machine is once again put through its paces and, with the poll workers, party witnesses and soldiers present, it is unlocked with a code and generates a tape that indicates that no votes have yet been registered. For the rest of the day, voters follow a horseshoe shaped process: showing their credentials, then placing their finger in the fingerprint reader to generate their ID number and photo. This unlocks the voting machine, permitting the voter to continue on to the voting machine and press the picture of the candidate and party of his or her choice and then the vote key. The machine then issues a paper receipt with the name of the candidate, permitting the voter to double check that his or her vote was properly recorded. The voter places the folded receipt in a traditional ballot box. The final steps are to dip one’s pinky finger in indelible ink and to sign and place a fingerprint in the registry as a final backup check.
When the polls close, 54% of the paper ballots cast are checked manually against the final tally issued by the voting machines through a “citizens audit” of polling stations that have been randomly selected, in the presence of the party witnesses The CNE waits to make its announcement of the results until the outcome was certain. This is the system that has been recognized by Jimmy Carter as “the best in the world.”
3:26 PM EDT: Capriles is considering wither to attend the meeting of UNASUR
Estamos evaluando la posibilidad de viajar a Lima y estar presente en la Reunión de Unasur,en Democracia se cuentan los votos!
— Henrique Capriles R. (@hcapriles) April 18, 2013
Translation: We are evaluating the possibility of traveling to Lima and being present for the UNASUR Meeting, in a Democracy you count the votes!
1:50 PM EDT: Associated Press misreports allegations by the opposition
An Associated Press story contains some details on the specific complaints of the opposition candidate Capriles:
Government backers forced pro-Capriles observers out of 283 polling places at which 722,983 votes were cast, and the lack of witnesses raises the possibility of fraud, including double voting.
Menacing bands of government supporters turned pro-Capriles voters away from the polls.
There were 3,535 damaged voting machines, representing 189,982 votes.
Voting rolls included 600,000 dead people.
The opposition, which formally submitted their complaint to the CNE yesterday, previously released a series of slides on their specific complaints (available here). The AP seems to have misstated the number of alleged damaged voting machines, as the slides released by the Capriles camp show 535 damaged machines, not 3,535. This increases the number of allegedly damaged voting machines by a factor of almost 7.
In the context of this misreporting, it is also important to note that reports indicate the electoral body had voting machines available to replace up to 10 percent of the total. This would easily accommodate replacing 535 malfunctioning machines. According to all available information, broken machines were quickly replaced as needed on election day, allowing everyone to vote. Indeed our live blog from the election notes several instances where this was the case.
1:14 PM EDT: UNASUR Meeting Today on Venezuelan Elections
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) will convene for urgent meetings in Lima, Peru, today to discuss the events in Venezuela following Sunday’s elections. According to press reports, the heads of state of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and host-country (and UNASUR chair) Peru will be in attendance. It is not yet clear whether President Rafael Correa of Ecuador will be able to attend the meeting, as he is traveling in Europe. His Minister of Foreign Relations, Ricardo Patiño, would attend in his absence. Paraguay, the lone South American nation that has not recognized Maduro’s election, has been suspended from UNASUR since its former president, Fernando Lugo, was deposed in a coup last June.
The reported goal of the meeting is to make a joint statement in support of Maduro and Venezuela’s democratic institutions ahead of Friday’s inauguration.
12:15 AM EDT: OAS Recognizes Maduro’s Victory, Leaving Washington Further Isolated
On Wednesday, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) José Miguel Insulza recognized Nicolás Maduro as Venezuela’s elected president. This represented an about face, as two days earlier the OAS had released a statement in which Insulza did not recognize the National Electoral Council’s (CNE) declaration of Maduro’s victory, and instead offered to send a team of OAS elections experts to assist with a recount. Some of the media had misreported Insulza’s prior statements as representing the OAS, but in fact there was almost no support within the OAS for Insulza’s prior position, from anywhere other than Washington. His reversal was undoubtedly forced by the overwhelming opposition to his prior position from member states.
Beyond his decision to recognize the election results, on Wednesday Insulza said, “I have not changed my original opinion (advocating for a vote recount), I believe there is a need for dialogue in Venezuela; in democracy you can win by a single vote”.
The head of OAS’s most recent comments were the latest indication that Washington, in its refusal to recognize the results, is almost completely isolated in the world. Yesterday Spain, Washington’s only significant ally on this issue, decided to reverse its previous decision and recognize Maduro.
Mercopress reports that Insulza added that “we are respectful of the legal and constitutional framework of Venezuela” and “we would have liked a more calm process, but they have taken a decision and I respect and abide that decision.”
10:15 AM EDT: Capriles Officially Files Recount Request, U.S. Endorses It
A review of yesterday’s news on Venezuela from today’s Pan-American Post:
After two days of confrontational rhetoric and mass protests, Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has finally submitted an official request for a full recount to the country’s election authority, the National Electoral Council (CNE). Carlos Ocariz, head of Capriles’ campaign team, told reporters that they met for over two hours with CNE President Tibisay Lucena yesterday to request a full review of “ballots, meeting minutes, voting machines, records and files” associated with Sunday’s election.
El Nacional reports that President-elect Nicolas Maduro welcomed the move and said he would “fully and completely” accept whatever the CNE decides regarding Cariles’ request. Nevertheless, the appeal will not prevent him from taking office. Maduro is scheduled to be sworn in tomorrow, in a ceremony attended by a number of regional heads of state and official delegates. Anticipated guests include the leaders of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Honduras as well as high-level officials from Spain, El Salvador Colombia and Peru, among other nations.
Meanwhile, the United States government continues to refrain from fully accepting the results of the Venezuelan elections. Testifying before Congress on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry endorsed the recount, saying “if there are huge irregularities we are going to have serious questions about the viability of that government.”
In response, Maduro dismissed Kerry’s remark to local press. “We don’t care about your recognition…We have decided to be, and we are going to be free and independent, with you or without you,” the Venezuelan leader said.
It is worth noting that Kerry did not explicitly say that the U.S. government contested Maduro’s victory. According to Politico, when asked if he recognized Maduro as the winner in Sunday’s elections Kerry refused to give a yes or no answer. This is likely part of a strategy to avoid public confrontation with Maduro’s government, thus lending weight to his claims that the Obama administration is intervening in Venezuela’s affairs.
This approach was referenced yesterday by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson. In a surprisingly frank interview with Bloomberg, she said that the Obama administration is actively avoiding responding to Maduro’s heated rhetoric, much as it did with Chavez. “It still doesn’t make sense to get in, you’ll excuse me, a pissing match with Nicolas Maduro any more than it did with Chavez,” Jacobson said.
4:31 PM EDT [April 17, 2013] : Smartmatic, the company that provides voting technology for Venezuela, describes the April 14 election
The firm notes that “some 15 audits of the voting platform were carried out, observed and certified by the country’s political parties.” Smartmatic also highlights the fact that it “distributed the voting platform among 13,683 polling centers, able to receive 18,903,143 vote-registered citizens. In total, the election employed 39,282 voting machines.”
Smartmatic also notes that its technology includes multiple audits, printed receipts of each vote, backed-up storage, and is 100% accurate. Beyond Venezuela, the company has been selected to provide technology to Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia, among other nations.
The company also has an interactive map of Venezuela, which counts the number of registered voters, polling stations, and voting machines in each state. Click here to check it out.
3:22 PM EDT:International monitors call on U.S. to recognize election results
Election monitors with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) issued a statement yesterday, concluding that the “process was fair, transparent, participatory, and well-organized.” The observers note that they “found a reliable system in which 54 percent of all votes are randomly audited on Election Day,” and that they had “witnessed one such audit in Caracas in which the paper ballots matched perfectly with the electronic votes.” The NLG statement goes on:
The NLG calls upon the U.S. to honor the Venezuelan election as the nations of the world honor U.S. elections without question. Moreover, as recognized by Jimmy Carter, Venezuela’s election infrastructure, with its secure electronic system backed by paper ballots, is “the best in the world,” and therefore deserves at least as much respect as our own.
As NLG member and international human rights law professor Daniel Kovalik states: “In the end, it is the Venezuelans who must decide their own future and leaders and the U.S., in the interest of democracy, must honor that decision.”
The full statement is available here.
2:56 PM EDT: Former Brazilian President Lula critical of U.S. stance on Venezuela election
The Times of India reportson South American countries’ backing of Maduro’s election and highlights comments made by former Brazilian president Lula da Silva:
Earlier, Brazil’s former president Lula da Silva had acknowledged Maduro as the winner of the election and told the US not to interfere. “Americans should take care of their own business a little and let us decide our own destiny,” Lula said at a rally in Brazil. “I want to ask for a round of applause for the election of Comrade Maduro in Venezuela,” Lula said at a political rally in Brazil, blasting the US for questioning the Venezuelan election result. “Americans every now and then decide to criticize the results of an election,” said the popular leader who was Brazil’s president for eight years between 2003 and 2011.
1:12 PM EDT: Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on the elections in Venezuela
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission issued the following statement [PDF] today:
“I have been following closely events in Venezuela after the presidential election on Sunday 14 April. I regret the loss of life in recent hours and call upon all parties to engage in peaceful dialogue and reject violence. I commend the high participation and the orderly and calm conduct of the election, but I am concerned by the growing polarisation of Venezuelan society. I take note of the statements by representatives of both government and opposition on the need for an audit of the vote as well as the subsequent announcement by the National Electoral Commission of Mr Maduro’s election. It is important that the outcome of the vote can be accepted by all and that appeals are duly considered by the competent Venezuelan authorities. I encourage all parties to engage constructively to promote good governance and transparency.”
12:58 PM EDT: John Kerry’s Remarks on Situation in Venezuela from :
“‘We think there ought to be a recount. I don’t know whether it’s going to happen in the next days,” Kerry told US lawmakers, appearing before them for the first time since becoming secretary of state.'”
‘Kerry told the House foreign affairs committee that if “there are huge irregularities, we’re going to have serious questions about the viability of that government.”‘ “‘But that evaluation has to be made, and I haven’t made it yet.”‘
“He also said it was doubtful the United States would send a delegation to Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony set for Friday.”
‘”If it’s under contested circumstances, I’d be very doubtful of that,” Kerry told the committee.’
Read the full Agence France-Presse article here.
12:54 PM EDT: White House Statement on Situation in Venezuela:
Statement by the Press Secretary on the Situation in Venezuela
The United States congratulates the Venezuelan people for their participation in the April 14 presidential elections in a peaceful and orderly manner. We call on the Venezuelan government to respect the rights of Venezuelan citizens to peaceful assembly and free speech. We also urge everyone to refrain from violence and other measure that could raise tensions at this difficult moment. The United States notes the acceptance by both candidates for an audit of the ballots and supports calls for a credible and transparent process to reassure the Venezuelan people regarding the results. Such a process would contribute to political dialogue and help advance the country’s democracy.
12:10 OM EDT: Democracy Now! on the Post-Election Today:
CEPR Senior Associate for International Policy Alex Main reports from Caracas on Democracy Now! this morning. On the program, he explains the audit of more than half of the votes that has already taken place, the violence following the opposition’s refusal to recognize the results, and the regional response condemning U.S. interference. To watch the segment or read the full transcript, click here.
11:40 Am EDT: Spain Recognizes Maduro as New President
Spain has now recognized the election of Nicolás Maduro as president of Venezuela, backing off from its earlier support for the U.S. position. This is a major blow to the U.S. efforts, and is similar to what happened after the 2002 coup, where Washington tried to put together a coalition of countries to recognize the coup government, but failed.
This will make it more difficult for the U.S. to maintain that there is an “international community” that has doubts about the results of the Venezuelan elections. It should be recognized that the U.S. government position is key to the current destabilization effort. If the U.S. withdraws support for this effort, it is extremely likely that Capriles will also give up his effort to de-legitimize the election.
From the :
“Spain has recognised the Venezuelan authorities’ decision to confirm Nicolas Maduro as the winner of Venezuela’s tight presidential election after initially expressing doubts over the outcome of the vote.
“Now that the constitutional and legal procedures have ended, the government of Spain respects the National Election Board’s proclamation of Nicolas Maduro as the president-elect of the Republic of Venezuela,” the foreign ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday.”
Read full article here.
11:15 AM EDT: OAS Meeting and Statements About the Election:
This morning, at a regular meeting of the permanent council of the Organization of American States, member countries have used the opportunity to congratulate the Venezuelan people and president Maduro for his election. Statements from Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay (as pro-tempore chair of Mercosur), Haiti (on behalf of Caricom), Colombia, Peru and Brazil have all been made thus far. The United States meanwhile, again reiterated calls for a recount. OAS Secretary General Insulza made a statement condemning the violence that has left at least 7 dead and calling on both sides to find a common way forward. The full video link will be posted here, later.
9:43 AM EDT: New York University Professor and Historian Greg Grandin, and contributer at The Nation:
From the annals of imperial asymmetry: On November 2, 2004, George W. Bush beat John Kerry 50.7 percent to 48.3 percent. Venezuela’s foreign minister immediately (either that night or the day after) recognized the results: “we will hope that in this second mandate we can improve our relations.”
Fast forward nine years, and Nicolás Maduro beats Henrique Capriles with 50.7% of the vote and the US refuses to recognize the result. “Look, we’re just not there yet,” said a State Department spokesman (who now works for wait for it — John Kerry). “Obviously, we have nearly half the country that had a different view. And so we’ll continue to consult, but we’re not there yet.”
Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and other Latin American countries have recognized the results, but Washington’s refusal gooses the opposition, who have ransacked and burned government buildings. There have been up to seven deaths. If anyone has any doubts about the flimsiness of Capriles’ claim that he was robbed, read this post by Francisco Toro, who is as antichavista as they come.
Greg Grandin teaches history at New York University and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His most recent book, Fordlandia, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history.
9:20 AM EDT: Argentina Calls on U.S. to Recognize Venezuelan Government:
“With all humbleness we request the US government to recognize the Venezuelan government following free transparent elections” said Cristina Fernandez, adding “it’s the best way to achieve and ensure peace”.
Full report from Mercopress here.
6:30 PM EDT [April 16, 2013]: Today’s State Department Briefing is up; U.S. is “not there” Yet:
According to State Department Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell, the United States is “not there” yet when asked if they were ready to congratulate Maduro on his election. Ventrell said that it was “difficult to understand” the “CNE’s decision to declare Mr. Maduro the victor before completing a full recount.”
The U.S. response stands in stark contrast to the reaction from the rest of the region, as noted below [6:18 update]. When asked why the U.S. was not ready to recognize Maduro’s election, despite statements from Mexico, Colombia and Brazil doing just that, Ventrell responded, “Look, we’re just not there yet, Matt. Obviously, we have nearly half the country that had a different view. And so we’ll continue to consult, but we’re not there yet.”
State Department Briefing on Venezuela:
The full State Department Briefing can be found here.
QUESTION: So, Venezuela.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: You didn’t want to answer the hypothetical question yesterday, so – but the hypothetical has happened.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay.
QUESTION: So what do you make of the fact that they went ahead and certified the result without a full recount or a full audit? What do you make of the violence that has ensued?
MR. VENTRELL: So, Matt, as we noted yesterday, given the very close results, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles and a member of the electoral council, the CNE, as the – it’s referred to, called for a 100 percent audit, a recount of the results. Ruling party candidate Maduro also endorsed this idea. And we said yesterday, a full recount would be important, prudent, and necessary in ensuring that an evenly divided Venezuelan electorate is confident that the election meets their democratic aspirations. The OAS and the EU have expressed similar views. And there are also outstanding allegations of voting irregularities raised by the opposition.
So the CNE’s decision to declare Mr. Maduro the victor before completing a full recount is difficult to understand, and they did not explain their haste in taking this decision.
QUESTION: Sorry. You’re still sticking with this line that Maduro called for a whole – a full recount?
MR. VENTRELL: My understanding is he did endorse that idea at one point yesterday. Now, where he eventually ended up throughout the day – but there was a moment where he endorsed the idea of a recount and said there was nothing to hide. So those were his words.
QUESTION: Okay. So what’s your next step, or is there one?
MR. VENTRELL: We’ll be absolutely in consultation with the OAS, the EU, regional partners, and we continue to believe that resolving the voting irregularities and the calls for a recount would do much to ensure that the Venezuelan people feel included in the process and that their democratic aspirations are being met. So —
QUESTION: So you still think that they should recount the votes?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, that’s been our position. That hasn’t happened.
QUESTION: No, no, even – no, after the vote has been certified, after the election’s been certified, you still think that there should be a recount?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, under the Venezuelan constitution, it’s ultimately up to the CNE to certify the election results, which they’ve done.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but what’s the U.S. position? Is the U.S. position that there still should be a recount?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, our position is that —
QUESTION: Or the Venezuelan people have confidence —
MR. VENTRELL: Our position is that – let me finish, Matt – our position is that resolving these irregularities would have engendered more confidence in the Venezuelan people in the quality of this vote. And so that is the concern we’ve expressed. But in terms of where we go forward, I just don’t have anything more for you today.
QUESTION: Well, okay. So are you prepared to congratulate Mr. Maduro on his victory?
MR. VENTRELL: We’re not there.
QUESTION: Why? The vote has been certified. He has been elected. So either you say, “Okay, and we’ll work with you,” or, “try to work with you,” or you say, “We don’t think that you’re the real winner,” or, “We think that there is no winner because the vote hasn’t been certified,” so – I mean, are you prepared to work with President Maduro, President-Elect Maduro?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, we said we’re prepared to work with whichever government comes out of this electoral process. Having said that, given what happened yesterday, we’re consulting with key partners, the OAS, the EU, other regional neighbors as we examine this. We have – the scenario is you have a deeply divided country, roughly evenly divided, and so we thought it was important to resolve some of these concerns, and that’s why we’re going to consult with some of our partners and concerned parties.
QUESTION: Well, do you – so do you or do you not recognize the result, the certified result, as being reflective of the wishes of the Venezuelan people?
MR. VENTRELL: We’re not making a judgment one way or another. This is a Venezuelan process under the Venezuelan constitution. The CNE does have this responsibility, but again, we’ve had our concerns, and many others, including the OAS and the EU, have had their concerns, too.
QUESTION: All right. Well, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil have all kind of – have all accepted the Maduro – Maduro’s victory. These would seem to be – at least Mexico and Colombia and to a certain extent Brazil – would seem to be some of your top friends in this region. I just am not sure why – when you reserve judgment, what are you reserving it for, because the vote’s already been certified?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, we’re just not there yet, Matt. Obviously, we have nearly half the country that had a different view. And so we’ll continue to consult, but we’re not there yet.
QUESTION: One last one?
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on – do you have anything to say about the violence that apparently – I think that several people were killed.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. Let me be very clear on this. Violence has no place in a democratic electoral process, so we join in others in calling on all Venezuelans to refrain from violence at this time.
QUESTION: What about protests? There is a call for —
MR. VENTRELL: People, as we say in all countries, should be allowed to peacefully protest and make their views and their voices heard, but there’s no place for violence.
QUESTION: And what – following all these questions of Matt, yesterday the Foreign Minister of Venezuela Jaua rejected the OAS position. He also rejected Spain’s position. He said that Spain should care about their unemployment and not about what happened in Venezuela. These kind of comments that he’s saying, I want to know – tomorrow there is a special session of the OAS – if the U.S. is going to present the case tomorrow in the permanent council tomorrow.
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have anything to preview about our activities at the OAS. As I said, we continue to consult, but I don’t have anything to preview in terms of tomorrow’s session one way or another.
QUESTION: But you are aware that there is high division in the OAS where Venezuela – it seems not to care about the OAS position, because they didn’t care about what Insulza said proposing – following the Inter-American Charter, right, to recount the votes and have the democracy of Venezuela in high standard?
MR. VENTRELL: One of our concerns – and this is broadly shared and this is, I think, why the OAS Secretary General made the statement that he did is – we didn’t have the kind of independent and respected international monitors that are common in so many other countries throughout the hemisphere. So that’s part of the concern that we’ve expressed, and the OAS was clear too.
QUESTION: If the U.S. has to evaluate the democracy of Venezuela from 0 to 10, where do you put it in this moment?
MR. VENTRELL: We don’t give grades from this podium, but thanks for the try.
The United States and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States crassly declared their support for the opposition’s demand for a full re-count of votes in Venezuela. On Monday, the White House deemed a “100 percent audit” of the results “an important, prudent and necessary step.” The OAS also released a statement saying that Secretary General José Miguel Insulza “expressed his support for this initiative.” Insulza’s comment, contrary to some press reports, does not represent perspective of the OAS as a whole.
Looking around the region, though, one sees a very different picture. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Uruguay all sent official congratulations to Maduro for his victory. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) also recognized Maduro as Venezuela’s new president. Brazil’s foreign minister Antonio Patriota called the election a “victory for democracy.” Beyond these statements, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Guatemala, and Mexico, all offered their congratulations to Maduro for his election as president.
The U.S. response to Maduro’s narrower-than-expected victory tramples on Venezuelan institutions that clearly lay out the protocol following elections. The National Electoral Council (CNE) audits over half of the votes in the hours after the polls close. The body is able to do this due to the voting system’s sophistication and security, which Jimmy Carter describes as “the best in the world.” Furthermore, it should be noted that the pro-opposition representative on the Council has said publicly that he has no doubts that the results are correct.
Given the broad regional support for Venezuela’s democratic institutions, the U.S. call for a full re-count only serves to promote conflict, as was warned on this blog yesterday. Unfortunately this conflict has now escalated. Reports from Venezuela indicate that at least four people have been killed, government agencies and news agencies have been attacked, PSUV headquarters were on fire, and intimidating crowds were protesting outside the house of CNE (National Electoral Council) president Tibisay Lucena. Washington should not only unequivocally denounce the violence, but should respect Venezuela’s democratic institutions by recognizing the election results. Washington’s isolation in this case is likely to increase if this drags on.
6:15 PM EDT: CEPR will be live-blogging post-election events and analysis following the Presidential elections in Venezuela on Sunday, April 14.
The Venezuelan opposition has taken the position that the results of Sunday’s presidential election are not valid, and are calling for a “100 percent recount.” Perhaps equally importantly, the White House and State Department have publicly joined their campaign. This means that there is both an international as well as a domestic (Venezuelan) campaign to contest the results of the election, most likely regardless of the CNE (National Electoral Council). There has already been violence, and since this is the first time in many years that the U.S. government has refused to recognize the results of a Venezuelan election, there is a possibility of more conflict.
So far, the United States is the only government in the hemisphere to join the opposition’s campaign against the election results. Most of the countries in Latin America have recognized the results and congratulated President Nicolas Maduro on his electoral victory.
This sets up a dynamic similar to that following the military coup in Honduras in 2009, where the United States was isolated with respect to the rest of the hemisphere (in that case the rest of the hemisphere was demanding the re-instatement of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya).
CEPR will be following both the international and domestic aspects of the current post-election campaign.