Venezuela's opposition is grappling with intensifying challenges in a tense political climate. Threats loom over the recent opposition primaries, which saw a decisive victory for former legislator María Corina Machado. The nation's National Assembly, under Chavismo's control, has joined efforts to discredit the electoral process, yet these attempts have failed to shake Machado's resolute stance.
Photo: 10/24/2023. Former congresswoman María Corina Machado, makes statements to journalists in Caracas (Venezuela). EFE/ Miguel Gutierrez
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Threats against the opposition primaries held on Sunday in Venezuela resulted in a resounding victory for former legislator María Corina Machado, intensified as the National Assembly (AN), controlled by Chavismo, joined efforts to discredit the process. However, their attempts failed to shake the determination of the winner.
Appealing to alleged mathematical logic, the President of the Assembly, Chavista Jorge Rodríguez, declared the opposition's primaries as "a colossal fraud," claiming that the number of participating voters had been altered.
In his view, 598,350 people voted, less than half of the total reported by the National Primary Commission (CNP), responsible for organizing the event, in the second bulletin, which stated 1,591,504 votes based on 64.88% of the counted ballots.
Furthermore, according to official measurements, there was "low turnout" and nearly "deserted" participation at "nearly 70%" of the polling stations. This assertion contradicts the photos and videos circulating on social media showing long lines at polling centers in Caracas and throughout the country.
The Threat Escalates
The threat escalated when Rodríguez, head of the official delegation in the negotiation process with the anti-Chavismo, announced that he would "immediately" request a meeting with the commission responsible for verifying the agreements signed in Barbados precisely one week ago. He believes that these agreements were violated during the Sunday primary.
This announcement comes six days after the temporary lifting of several sanctions against Venezuela by the United States, including those related to oil and gas. The United States warned it might reconsider its decision if "political prisoners" of American nationality in the Caribbean are not released, and Machado remains disqualified from holding public office.
In response, the Biden Administration, which took this action in reaction to the agreement on electoral guarantees for the 2024 presidential elections, stated that it expects to see concrete steps before the end of November.
Machado, the winner of the primaries with nearly 1.5 million votes, accounting for 92.56% of the total, with 35.12% of the ballots yet to be counted, has been disqualified by the Comptroller General's Office since 2015 until 2030. If her sanction is lifted, she can only compete in the presidential elections scheduled for the second half of next year.
In this regard, several non-governmental organizations called on Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Tuesday to influence the Maduro government to lift the disqualifications against opposition figures, including Machado.
Attacks on the primaries also came from opposition legislator José Brito, who filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) on Tuesday, requesting a review of a "series of irregularities" he claimed occurred during the primaries of the majority sector of Chavismo. He accused them of "blatantly inflating the participation figures."
The CNP still needs to provide a final voter turnout figure for the October 22 contest but has reported on the counted ballots so far.
Shortly after Rodríguez and Brito's statements, Machado, determined to go "all the way," downplayed the accusations and allegations. According to her, these do not contribute to the "construction" of the presidential path for 2024, a process she believes began with the "unequivocal mandate" she received on Sunday.
During a press conference, she expressed her desire to provide "reassurance and certainty" to the Venezuelan people. She reiterated that no one will "tarnish" what happened two days ago when the "big loser was (President) Nicolás Maduro."
She emphasized that the people know the truth because they were there, and those who did not vote, for various reasons, saw with their own eyes what occurred. Machado asserted that Chavismo sympathizers also voted on October 22. She also mentioned that she had been approached by "people who did not participate in the primaries." She expressed an interest in "joining this movement," but she felt revealing their names was inappropriate, allowing them to decide themselves.