On January 23, Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) approved a decree that calls for presidential elections to be held by April 30, 2018. As organizations devoted to advancing human rights in the Americas, we are profoundly concerned by the announcement, and urge Venezuela’s electoral authorities to adhere to Venezuela’s constitution and ensure the fulfillment of Venezuelans’ fundamental right to elect a president in a process that is free, fair, and transparent.
We are especially alarmed that the announcement was made by the ANC, a body that was convened outside of Venezuela’s constitutional order. The ANC was convoked bypassing the constitutionally-required referendum on whether or not to create such an assembly.
The ANC’s decree that elections take place by the end of April 2018 directly violates Article 298 of the Constitution, which clearly states: “The law that regulates electoral processes may not be modified in any way in the period between election day and the six months immediately preceding it.”
In support of international efforts to achieve a peaceful, democratic resolution to Venezuela’s crisis, we applaud the recent statement from the 14 nations of the Americas who signed the 4th Declaration of the Lima Group. As the declaration notes, presidential elections should be convened with enough time to prepare the corresponding institutional guarantees, with the due participation of all Venezuelan political actors and with the participation of independent international observers. We agree with the declaration in asserting that elections that do not meet these conditions “will lack legitimacy and credibility.”
The work of the Lima Group and other efforts to address the crisis through multilateral diplomacy is essential, and we reiterate our support for these initiatives in the face of recent calls for dangerous steps such as military intervention. The Venezuelan people deserve solidarity in the affirmation of their fundamental democratic rights, which the ANC’s decree threatens to undermine.