US Bets on a Losing Candidate To Be Able To Claim Venezuelan Elections Illegitimate

Nino Pagliccia, Orinoco Tribune, June 7, 2024 —

The preparations for the upcoming Venezuelan presidential elections scheduled for July 28 are progressing as expected with active political campaigning in the country. However, there is a sense of ominous anticipation of interference from the United States government who has been for years stubbornly intent on destroying the Bolivarian Revolution by forcefully removing president Nicolas Maduro with total disregard of Venezuela’s sovereignty and international norms.

In fact, Diosdado Cabello, member of the National Assembly of Venezuela and vice president of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), has already suggested that the one extreme rightwing opposition party will most likely not accept the election results if Maduro wins, and will claim electoral fraud emboldened by Washington support. 

The likely losing opposition member to make such a claim is Maria Corina Machado who appears to be the only chosen political contender by the United States administration despite the fact that she is legally barred from holding any government post for 15 years. Ms. Machado is currently campaigning for her handpicked replacement candidate, Edmundo Gonzalez, while she is provocatively stating that she will be the president of Venezuela. That puzzling defiance makes analyst Maria Paez appropriately ask the question Is Washington Trying to Subvert Venezuela’s Elections? and she gives strong legal arguments why Ms. Machado cannot be a candidate.

However, we argue that the US government has been exerting continuous overt and overbearing intervention in Venezuelan elections, as it has happened in previous elections, by consistently lending undue support to candidates that have taken the path of violence instead of the democratic process. We also claim that the process is democratic and assert the legitimacy of the electoral process in Venezuela as being solid and preventing any possibility of wilful fraud.

Following the election of Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela in 1998 thirty-one  elections of any kind have taken place including five presidential elections that by all accounts have been democratic according to international standards. What was not democratic was the 2002 rightwing failed coup attempt against Hugo Chavez that lasted only 47 hours. Instead of condemning an undemocratic coup the United States government recognized Pedro Carmona as new President within hours of the coup and accepted the false claim that Chávez had “resigned”. Carmona’s first “decree” was to annul the progressive 1999 Venezuelan constitution that Chavez promoted, a premonition that the political history of Venezuela was about to be quite different had the coup succeeded.

The role of “sanctions” to oust president Nicolas Maduro

Having failed to overthrow president Hugo Chavez in the 2002 coup, and having failed to achieve a change of regime by electoral means when Nicolas Maduro was elected president by majority vote following the death of Chavez in 2013, Washington showed its eagerness to see Chavismo disappear in all forms when it dramatically increased its political persecution on the Venezuelan government with its favourite weapon: “sanctions.”

The dreadfully earnest persecution started as early as 2014 when the US imposed “targeted sanctions on persons responsible for violations of human rights of anti government protesters in Venezuela.” This false accusation was followed by the more damning 2015 US president Barack Obama’s uncalled for and preposterous executive order declaring Venezuela a national security threat. An escalation of “sanctions,” more accurately called unilateral coercive measures, followed: Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Venezuela (March 8, 2015); Imposing Additional Sanctions with Respect to the Situation in Venezuela (August 24, 2017); Taking Additional Steps to Address the Situation in Venezuela (March 19, 2018); Prohibiting Certain Additional Transactions with Respect to Venezuela (May 21, 2018); Blocking Property of Additional Persons Contributing to the Situation in Venezuela (November 1, 2018). The vague reference to the “situation in Venezuela” was obviously one that did not serve the interests of Washington.

What is remarkable about these absurd “sanctions” is the frantic succession with the clear intention of creating the widespread unrest in Venezuela that saw the most violent street protests (colloquially called guarimbas) during the period 2014-2018 against the government of Nicolas Maduro. Guarimbas were terrorising actions such as creating barricades throughout streets and blocking traffic, throwing objects and Molotov cocktails, extending steel wires across streets intended to decapitate police on motorcycles, etc. Guarimberos were responsible for many deaths, the most gruesome of which was burning alive of young passers-by who “appeared to be chavistas.” 

Reportedly one of the organisers of the guarimbas was Maria Corina Machado, today’s Washington protégée. What characterises her political leaning is a letter signed by Maria Corina Machado, dated December 4, 2018 addressed to former president of Argentina Mauricio Macri and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The letter requested their intervention in the “promotion of a regime change” in Venezuela. It is apparently normal practice of the most extreme rightwing opposition members to appeal for support to willing foreign powers instead of seeking the support of Venezuelans with alternative policy proposals. No one knows what Ms. Machado’s party wants except for a return to the past with the eradication of Chavismo and reinstating neoliberal policies

The year 2018 was also a presidential election year in Venezuela. The most violent opposition party, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) that is now running with Ms. Machado’s candidate, Edmundo Gonzalez, opted to boycott the election under the unproven pretext that the election was not legitimate nor democratic. Not coincidentally, the same claim was made by the US government and the Canadian government, with some other co-opted countries, before the election took place, which incidentally forbade the author and other Venezuelans from voting in Canada.

Nevertheless, with an electoral slate having only four candidates in 2018, Maduro won the election with almost 68% of the valid votes and a voter turnout of 46%. If anyone thinks that it was a low turnout, consider that the voter turnout in the US presidential elections in the same year was 49% (without boycotts), and it was 46% for the 2022 elections.

The US, Canada and few other countries did not recognise Nicolas Maduro as president not based on any national or international law but simply for political reasons. Having failed again at destroying the Bolivarian Revolution, the US government had two of the most outrageous, pathetic and embarrassing reactions: 1) the recognition as “president” of the then unknown unelected, self-appointed Juan Guaidó of the opposition party Popular Will (Voluntad Popular), that had boycotted the elections, himself a reported participant in the guarimbas of 2014-2018; and 2) the posting of  a bounty of up to $15 million for “information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Nicolás Maduro Moros.” The US had no shame in sending US Officials Meet Maduro and Fail to Drive Wedge Between Venezuela and Russia in March 2022. As for Guaidó he has vanished in Miami where all failed Latin American caudillos end their career, richer thanks to US taxpayers.

Today the guarimbas and violence in general have virtually disappeared in Venezuela, the US unilateral coercive measures against Venezuela have reached the total number of 930, thanks to a large number issued by former president Donald Trump and currently maintained by president Joe Biden, that include harsh financial and economic punitive actions and seizure of Venezuelan assets. No doubt “sanctions” have a lethal impact that has indeed caused hundreds of thousands deaths. Their imposition has been called “A War Without Bombs” in the outstanding book The Social, Political and Economic Impact of Sanctions Against Venezuela. An authorized abridged and edited version of the book is titled US Sanctions Are Killing Venezuelans.

Upcoming July 28 elections

Having established the intersection of the Venezuelan opposition and its violent past with the just as violent US interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs via criminal “sanctions,” we can turn to the issue of the upcoming elections on July 28 and the legitimacy of the Venezuelan electoral process. 

To this date we are at the door of another presidential election on July 28, 2024. In the final electoral slate there are 38 political parties and 10 candidates. That means that Nicolas Maduro has 9 contenders to the presidency. No political party has been unable to lawfully register and no candidate has been prevented from running, except, that is, for Maria Corina Machado. The Venezuelan legal system has caught up with her deeds.

The Venezuela News outlet reports, the CNE publishes the total number of people registered to vote on July 28. The same article lists all 10 candidates to the presidency of Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro has the support of 13 political parties. One candidate, Luis Eduardo Martinez has the support of six parties including the two traditional parties, Democratic Action (AD) and Independent Electoral Political Organization Committee (Copei), that have dominated Venezuelan politics from 1959 to 1999. 

Edmundo Gonzalez, proposed by Maria Corina Machado, has the support of three parties including the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), which has been a declared anti-chavista party. The MUD performed well in the parliamentary elections of 2015 winning a controlling majority in the National Assembly (NA). It was to their disadvantage, however, that their only declared goal and work was to conduct a parliamentary coup against president Maduro instead of proposing constructive legislation and programs for the country to satisfy the demands of their voters. That was a missed opportunity aggravated by the period of violent street protests organised by the opposition that just gained control of the NA. These factors may have created a disaffection from their supporters and in turn the internal political divisions that pushed away important parties such as AD and Copei among others. Their anti-chavismo track record and propensity to violence may explain the continued backing of the US government.

Seven more candidates collectively supported by 16 political parties also have aspirations of winning the presidency of Venezuela on July 28.

Electoral framework

From the proposed electoral slate with 10 candidates and 38 political organizations including the organization that has historically undermined the election process either by boycott or claims of fraud, the upcoming election seems to have the broadest representation to be able to dismiss any contention of being undemocratic. We then turn our attention to the election process itself.

Most of the information that follows is taken from the website of the Venezuelan National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE).

The Venezuelan National Constitution approved on December 15, 1999, divides the National Public Power into five powers: Executive Power, Legislative Power, Judicial Power, Citizen Power and Electoral Power. These last two powers were not contemplated in the previous 1961 constitution.

The Electoral Power is the relevant power in our context. It is exercised by the National Electoral Council as the governing body. Its subordinate bodies are: The National Electoral Board, the Civic and Electoral Registry Commission and the Political Participation and Financing Commission each with their implicit mandates.

The creation of the Electoral Power arose in response to the doubts that were raised from different sectors of national life regarding the organization of the electoral processes and their results, which generated a lack of confidence in them. Therefore a transformation was envisioned from which emerged the formation of a solid electoral organization based on a modern structure, and the determination and application of clear rules, guarantees of transparent, technical, precise and impartial electoral processes, which offered confidence in the veracity of the opinion deposited by citizens at the electoral polls.

The eight fundamental principles of the Electoral Power are:

• Organic independence
• Functional and budgetary autonomy
• The non-partisanship of electoral organizations
• The impartiality
• Citizen participation
• The decentralization of electoral administration
• Transparency
• The speed of the voting and counting process

Technological support

The voting system in Venezuela is fully automated and can be audited in all its phases. In 2004, Venezuela became the first country in the world to hold a national election with machines that print a voter-verified paper audit trail. More recently, in 2012, Venezuela once again set the standard, when it held the first national election with biometric voter authentication for the subsequent activation of the voting machine. Reportedly the use of voting machines represent an innovative, secure and 100% auditable alternative for the automation of elections.

Another feature of the technological platform is the use of a conventional (electronic) voting ballot. Voters can click on the name, face or party of the candidate. In the last phase of automation the Venezuelan voting method was strengthened with the introduction of the Comprehensive Authentication System, which allows the voter to activate the machine with their fingerprint; this adds another guarantee for the integrity and no duplication of the vote.

Once the voter’s fingerprint is authenticated, the machine is activated so that the voter can mark their vote directly on the machine’s screen or on the electronic ballot. The selected option appears on the screen and the voter has the opportunity to confirm their vote by pressing the VOTE key.

This vote remains stored randomly in the machine’s memory and at the end of the day is recorded in the printed totaling minutes. These votes are compared with the physical receipts from the receipt box in the subsequent audit.

The vote package from each machine travels encrypted through a secure network which is isolated from the Internet and has multiple levels of security and authentication. No external computer can penetrate the election results.

The totalization system relies on powerful servers, which receive the electoral results from all the voting machines distributed in the country. The totalization system only receives data from voting machines authenticated and authorized by the CNE.

The CNE website informs that all phases of the process are protected with an alphanumeric key encrypted through an electronic signature. This makes it impossible to access the data without the key shared between all actors including participating political parties.

Most importantly, all political parties receive printed copies of the election returns of all polling stations. When the CNE publishes the results on its website, polling station by polling station, it is very easy to compare all these printed records against the results published by the CNE. Fraud by alteration of the votes is virtually impossible.


The CNE appears to be making all assurances and providing all possible guarantees that the elections are fair, legitimate and transparent. We consider that former US president Jimmy Carter, speaking on behalf of the Carter Center, with wide experience in observing elections, is a reliable and knowledgeable authority on the matter. Former president Carter unequivocally stated that the Venezuelan Electoral System is the “Best in the World” (Video)

However, as also stated in the Study Mission of The Carter Center 2013 Presidential Elections in Venezuela, “In and of itself, no system of voting can guarantee the confidence of the population in the process and outcomes. Whether manual or automated, confidence in elections is built by clear rules, transparency in all aspects of the process, impartial institutions to administer elections and adjudicate disputes, and monitoring by citizens and political parties.” The last comment on “monitoring by citizens and political parties” is crucial but cannot be enforced. It is totally dependent on the willingness of the political actors to engage in, and willingness in turn can easily be influenced by interested foreign actors. The voluntary withdrawal from this aspect of the electoral process cannot be compensated by the most perfect system nor entitles anybody to question the process.

The presidential election of 2018 is a clear case – indeed a serious case – of foreign influence. The United States and Canada publicly and preemptively declared the election illegitimate even before it took place, which surely motivated the most rightwing opposition to boycott it with subsequent acts of street violence to attempt to invalidate the election. Anti-Venezuelan government street protests also took place in Canada by Venezuelan expatriates.

It was my conclusion then that the 2018 Elections in Venezuela was Democratic, Fair and Transparent by international standards. In addition, “Venezuela is democratic because the majority of the people made it so by exercising their constitutional right to vote freely and independently, and, we may add, despite the international interference”.

Past experience of meddling in Venezuelan elections by foreign powers has created a political environment that can undermine the most legitimate election. Political analyst Roger Harris pointedly wrote recently about the upcoming Venezuelan elections that The Biggest Obstacle to Free and Fair Elections in Venezuela is the US.

In the next few weeks leading up to the elections we will not hear from the US-controlled mainstream corporate media about the political debates coming from the presidential candidates and how they hope to gain the backing of the voters; on the contrary we will hear more interference noise about how the governing party of Nicolas Maduro is an authoritarian government without the support of people, and how the “opposition” is being persecuted by a repressive government. This is an odd “repressive authoritarian government” that seems to be confident enough to run an election with 10 candidates including the only US-backed “opposition”.

What is important to remember is that when the US-controlled mainstream corporate media refers to Ms. Machado as “leader of Venezuela’s opposition” or “opposition powerhouse”, they are really referring to the supporter (not candidate) of one of nine opposition candidates.

Having the US government failed in its regime change goal in Venezuela with its support for the self appointed Juan Guaidó as “acting president” in 2019, the Biden administration may be setting itself up for a similar failure with its current support for another losing candidate. But it is precisely a losing candidate that is needed to claim that an election is illegitimate and there was fraud.

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