Chavistas decided to honor the 60th anniversary of the end of the dictatorship that preceded them, by moving on with their own. The most repeated arguments in 2016 to block the activation of the recall referendum were that there wasn’t time to hold it, that elections were some sort of luxury expense for a country in crisis and that holding them wasn’t a priority for the people. Now that the crisis is far worse and the country’s collapsing on all sides, their vengeance in the face of EU sanctions has been demanding elections before April 30, even though this violates the Electoral Law – which establishes that elections must be called at least six months before they’re held –. The Electoral Branch brazenly showed its subservience to the Administration (that’s why rectora Tania D’Amelio tweeted about the Electoral Registry yesterday).
This move kicks the negotiation table, because clean elections, with an impartial CNE, with an agreed time table and electoral guarantees isn’t convenient for the only thing they want: holding onto power at any cost.
Diosdado Cabello proposed early elections because: “If the world wants to impose sanctions, we’ll impose elections.” Pretty upset for his usual media performance, Cabello asked to keep their strengths united and ratified Nicolás as candidate. “There won’t be any more betrayals,” he said, likely referring to Rafael Ramírez, Luisa Ortega Díaz and Miguel Rodríguez Torres. Since the ANC is an audience of raised fits unanimously approving anything demanded by power, Delcy Rodríguez sealed the process with the fascist phrase “Ana Karina Rote,” a piece of a Caribe warcry that means “Only we are people”; by way of the hate law.
We’re Chávez’s children first
… and we’re Maduro’s warriors.” Such was the slogan used yesterday by chavismo at the O’Leary square; even faker than Cilia Flores’ hair dye, as she passionately applauded Nicolás’ words, including his request for the CNE to hold elections as soon as possible, because if it were up to him, they’d be held this very Sunday, January 28. He referred to OAS chief Luis Almagro as garbage; he suggested a sexual position for president Mariano Rajoy and about the European Union, he said that “they’re on their knees before their new master (Trump)”; an exercise to defy any voice calling him a dictator. The fact that the reaction before EU sanctions is holding early elections is just one more evidence of democracy, so now “dialogue is more necessary than ever.” Brilliant. He didn’t forget his threats: “If the day ever comes that we must take up arms (…) the Venezuelan people would take them. I wouldn’t hesitate to rally them.”
In the National Assembly
Meanwhile, Ramón Guillermo Aveledo was the speaker for Parliament’s Special Session for the 60th anniversary of January 23, 1958. The contrast between both speeches was stark. Nicolás promised battles and Aveledo asked people to protect those who are suffering, to defend hope, because on that January 23: “Venezuela saw a new day of hope, of a hope that vanquished fear. Hope is the last thing we lose and is the initial price of all great victories,” emphasizing that Venezuelans demand the opposition to be united to accomplish the changes, urging lawmakers to keep Parliament open despite the abuses, as the icon of legitimate power that they are, because nobody “is as power as to demand the prerogative to rob hope from the Venezuelan people.”
This early call to presidential elections takes place with a fractured opposition, with several leaders either disqualified or in exile, without a single candidate (and waiting for new candidacies) and right after the ANC imposed a new party revalidation process to be held this weekend. On top of serious discussions about the pertinence of participating or not – beyond the fact that the ANC was behind the call –, with a crisis of these proportions and the urgency of so many to change their conditions, a unitary opposition candidate could win; but how could we prevent chavismo from committing fraud? It’s impossible to sum up the map of dissident reactions to early elections, but safe for a few exceptions, most agree on its illegitimacy and impertinence, as well as the urgent need to coalesce the people around the best option in a severely restricted and disadvantageous context.
The Lima Group
The Lima Group’s 14 member nations condemned the government’s decision to convene early elections and remarked that this decision blocks the possibility to hold democratic, transparent and credible elections, and it also contradicts the democratic principles for negotiations between the government and the opposition. They restated the lack of legitimacy and legality of all the ANC’s decisions and condemned the measures they’ve imposed, because they’ve intensified social conflict and further undermined citizen liberties. They deplored the fact that even though the humanitarian crisis has grown worse, the government’s still reticent to accept help, and they ratified their willingness to offer it. Lastly, they expressed concern for the Venezuelan exodus, acknowledging the challenge that this situation represents for the region’s countries, promising to develop actions of international cooperation to strengthen the capacities of neighbouring countries.
- Mexican Foreign minister Luis Videgaray Caso remarked the call to early elections is incompatible with the dialogue in the Dominican Republic, because the date for elections was one of the points on which there was no consensus. Consequently, the Mexican government is leaving the process.
- The U.S. doesn’t think it’s a good idea for Nicolás to run for reelection; they condemned the ANC’s decision and asked for free and fair elections. Later, CIA director Mike Pompeo acknowledged that the CIA is behind some of the sanctions imposed in recent months against the Venezuelan government.
- During the Lima Group meeting, Canadian Foreign minister Chrystia Freeland announced and additional $500,000 in humanitarian aid to offer emergency healthcare and medicines for the most vulnerable and crisis-stricken Venezuelans.
- HRW head José Miguel Vivanco insisted that the Lima Group should impose sanctions against Venezuelan regime officials and appeal to international instances so that those responsible for the abuses meet their punishment.
- Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and Foreign minister María Ángela Holguín decided to move Ricardo Lozano, Colombian ambassador in Venezuela, to Costa Rica. Diplomatic relations with Venezuela will continue with chargé d’affaires Germán Castañeda, as Colombia’s representative in the country. Meanwhile, Cúcuta mayor César Rojas promised that the Venezuelans living in their sports courts will be returned to Venezuela.
- By decree, the Peruvian government approved the guidelines for Venezuelans living in the country to request the Temporary Stay Permit (PTP). Venezuelans haven’t stopped arriving to Peruvian territory, and their immigration office estimates that over 8,000 enter the country every month.
Mariana Párraga, a journalist specialized in oil matters, tweeted:
Mientras tanto, y como casi siempre pasando por debajo de la mesa, los muchurrios de la refineria de #Amuay terminaron por apagarse todos el dia de hoy. Paralisis de produccion total, segun fuentes sindicales
— Marianna Párraga (@mariannaparraga) January 23, 2018
“Meanwhile, and going unnoticed as usual, all of Amuay’s flares are down today. Complete production shutdown, according to labor union sources.”
By then, the black market dollar had already increased Bs. 30,000, closing at Bs. 241,664.88. The euro is about to cross the Bs. 300,000 threshold.