The primary, organized by the National Primary Commission, drew over 2.4 million voters from within Venezuela and abroad to select a candidate to challenge President Nicolás Maduro in the upcoming election.
Photo: 10/26/2023. Candidate Maria Corina Machado receives the document, signed by the members of the National Primary Commission, proclaiming her as the winner of the internal elections of the opposition, in Caracas (Venezuela). EFE/ Miguel Gutiérrez
The Latin American Post Staff
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Leer en español: María Corina Machado emerge como vencedora en controvertidas primarias de la oposición venezolana
Opposition-Backed María Corina Machado Triumphs in Controversial Primary
In a recent opposition-organized primary, Venezuelan government critic María Corina Machado emerged as the winner despite the self-proclaimed socialist government's claims of its illegitimacy. The primary, organized by the National Primary Commission, drew over 2.4 million voters from within Venezuela and abroad to select a candidate to challenge President Nicolás Maduro in the upcoming election.
Controversy and Criminal Investigation
Maduro's government had initially provided some assurances that the opposition would be able to choose a candidate. However, it soon cast doubts on the primary's legitimacy. Prosecutors initiated a criminal investigation into the primary organizers, alleging identity fraud and usurping authority. Additionally, the government maintained a ban on Machado's candidacy.
Nevertheless, in a gathering attended by opposition leaders and other candidates who faced defeat in the primary, the primary commission declared María Corina Machado the victor on Thursday.
Overwhelming Support for Machado
Results released by the commission indicated that more than 2.4 million voters participated in the primary, with approximately 93% expressing support for Machado. Machado praised the voters, referring to them as the "great heroes of this historic feat" and urged trust in the people of Venezuela who had placed their faith in her.
The primary saw unexpected participation, even in previously considered strongholds of the governing party. Voters patiently endured long lines under scorching sun or heavy rain, all while sharing hopes for a new government capable of extricating the country from a severe crisis that has plunged millions into poverty and forced over 7.7 million to seek refuge elsewhere.
Grassroots Ingenuity in the Face of Challenges
Machado shared anecdotes from the grassroots effort on Sunday, including instances where voters improvised, using an ironing board as a makeshift table at one voting station and resorting to handwritten candidate lists when ballots ran out at another station.
Jesús María Casal, head of the National Primary Commission, commended the "courage" of thousands of Venezuelans who volunteered their homes, businesses, and other spaces to host voting centers. He also acknowledged those who took considerable risks to help organize the event. Casal emphasized that while progress had been made, much work was still ahead. He spoke of the need for inclusivity, the preservation of the broad political and social movement generated by the primary citizen participation and dialogue with all segments of society.
History of Broken Agreements
Maduro's government had agreed, in principle, to allow the opposition to choose its candidate for the 2024 presidential election during negotiations with a faction of the Venezuelan opposition supported by the U.S. However, the Venezuelan government has a history of bending the law, retaliating against opponents, and violating agreements as it sees fit.
National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez argued that the turnout claimed by the commission was mathematically impossible given the available voting centers and the time required for each person to cast a ballot. The country's chief prosecutor also indicated that the ongoing criminal investigation would encompass money laundering allegations.
María Corina Machado asserted that she believes the government is already violating last week's agreement, which had secured some relief from U.S. sanctions, including those in the oil sector.