No Resolution in Sight in Venezuela Electoral Crisis

Hugo Pérez Hernáiz and David Smilde

Yesterday morning Maduro announced in cadena (transmission that all broadcast media are obliged to carry) that he will not allow the opposition to march to the building of the CNE in downtown Caracas tomorrow: “Now they are planning for a march tomorrow to downtown Caracas. We will not allow a march in downtown Caracas. You (the opposition) will not go to downtown Caracas to fill it with death and blood.”

During the same cadena, Maduro announced that the government had successfully defused an ongoing coup, without giving details. He also made a direct appeal to the private media: “You have to define who you are with: with the fatherland, with peace, or with the people. Or will you again take sides with fascism?”

The prohibition came after celebrations and protests Sunday and Monday left seven dead, according to State media.  Capriles had called on his followers to the CNE offices in states in the interior on Tuesday and to join him at the main CNE office in Caracas on Wednesday. Those concentrations appeared to have developed mostly peacefully, although a few were dispersed by the National Guard during the day.

The government and public media have been blaming the violent protest directly on Capriles (The public Agencia Bolivariana de Noticas quoted above titles its press note: “Seven socialists victims die during violence called by Capriles”). Diosdado Cabello declared yesterday that he would propose that the National Assembly investigates the link between Capriles and the violent protests. “Capriles, fascist, I will personally make sure you pay for all the harm you are doing to our fatherland and our people” he wrote on twitter Monday night. Of course, violent incidents on Monday and Tuesday have not been the monopoly of opposition supporters. There are reports of violent attacks to local Acción Democrática offices in several cities, and two local newspapers in Los Teques (outside Caracas) were besieged by alleged government supporters yesterday.

Capriles has repeatedly denied that he is calling for violent protests. He wrote on Twitter during the day: “those who are with me are on the road of PEACE. Those that want violence, stay away!” and “My followers love PEACE! Nobody deviate from that road! The government wants violence! Nobody bite that bait! RT this message.”

Opposition supporters reacted angrily on social media sites to the prohibition of tomorrow´s march. Most alleged their constitutional right to protest. Some see the reaction of the government as proof that it has something to hide: “I have so far resisted thinking that there might have been a fraud, but so much negativity to verify the will of the country makes me think. Open the boxes now!” wrote an opposition supporter on Twitter.

Others expressed their anger that Maduro has not stopped his campaign practice of calling those on the opposition Fascists, Nazis, Bourgeois, the Oligarchy, traitors, apátridas (without fatherland), etc. and claim that this language is fueling violence.

Later in the afternoon on Tuesday Maduro held a second cadena. He repeated the charges Capriles was calling for violence and added that, as Capriles did not recognize him as President, he was in turn not recognizing Capriles as Governor of the State of Miranda. He would therefore cease to transfer federal funds to the State but instead “give the money directly to the people of Miranda.”

After the second cadena by Maduro, Capriles held a press conference that was not transmitted by public media. He denied accusations that he was plotting a coup and denied responsibility for the violence. He continued to call Maduro “the illegitimate one” and insisted on a vote recount. But most importantly he asked his followers to “stay home tomorrow,” calling off the Wednesday march that had been previously prohibited by Maduro and thus effectively preventing a possible violent incident. He instead called for cacerolazos (a pot banging protest) every night.

In a parallel incident on Tuesday afternoon, the National Assembly reflected the mood of the country and how bad things could get. During the session, PSUV deputy Pedro Carreño introduced a motion condemning the violence to be debated by the Assembly. Before the debate on the motion, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello declared that only representatives that recognized Maduro as President would be allowed to speak. As opposition representatives asked for their turn to speak, Cabello would directly ask if she or he recognized Maduro, if not, he would switch off their microphones.

Scuffles between representatives ensued as the pro-government representatives chanted in unison “Fascist! Murderers!” against opposition representatives. Representative from Acción Democrática William Dávila was seriously injured in the head after being hit with a blunt object by Pedro Carreño.

The question and answer period of Capriles’ press conference was interrupted by a third cadena in which Maduro reiterated some of the same accusations against the opposition made in the previous two cadenas of the day. He added that the opposition “does not care about elections, they were prepared to not recognize, no matter what the circumstances. What they really care about is disturbing (embochinchar) the country, they respond to their masters in the North.”