Venezuela Post-Election Watch Live-Blog
|Tuesday, 16 April 2013 16:55|
5:05 PM EDT: International Representation at Maduro's Inauguration
Nicolás Maduro has just been sworn in as president of Venezuela. Despite the refusal of the United States and Venezuelan opposition leader to accept the legitimacy of the election results, an overwhelming amount of the region's leadership showed up or was represented at Maduro's inauguration today.
Dilma Rousseff (Brazil)
2:55 PM EDT: William Hague Recognizes New President
This message was issued by the Secretary of State for the United Kingdom:
On the occasion of the inauguration of Nicolas Maduro as President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the UK Government looks forward to working with the Government and people of Venezuela to strengthen our relationship and deepen cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
We are concerned by reports of violence following the elections and call on all sides to work together to reduce tensions and to prevent further incidents.
See message here.
The swearing-in ceremony of President Nicolás Maduro has just completed, but uncertainty still surrounds the US position, as that country has still not yet recognized the results of the elections on Sunday.
11:25 AM EDT: Carter Center Statement on Venezuelan Elections Calls for Peace and Dialogue
The Carter Center, an organization that is widely trusted in election observation, released a statement yesterday calling for “Venezuelans to express their differences peacefully” and for a “sustained national dialogue to facilitate democratic coexistence.” Key sections of the statement read as follows:
The premise of this dialogue should be the mutual recognition of the political actors. Without this, the country cannot advance. The dialogue should include discussion about the minimum agreements needed to find solutions to the major challenges Venezuela faces, as well as how to define the rules and institutions that guarantee conditions of fair play during electoral campaigns.
According to the constitution, the National Electoral Council (CNE) has the legal authority to accredit the president-elect based on the election results. At the same time, the losing candidate has the right to submit a legal challenge in conformity with the procedures established by Venezuelan jurisprudence, and to expect that this challenge will receive the appropriate consideration from electoral and judicial authorities. Citizens have the right to express their demands and opinions peacefully, with state guarantees of their political and civil rights, as well as their personal security.
Clear and transparent information about the voting process and results, including responses to complaints, enhances confidence in and legitimacy of those results. The Capriles campaign's formal submission of the irregularities they have identified, and an expeditious and full response from the CNE, should help to lower the tensions generated by the April 14 election results.
The Carter Center condemns all acts of violence, no matter their origin, and sympathizes with those wounded and the families of victims of politically-associated acts. The Center further alerts that expressions of verbal aggression and contempt for individuals create conditions for physical aggression, particularly in conditions of high tension like those Venezuela is experiencing at the moment. The Center encourages and applauds the adoption of measures and language to avoid violence or discrediting of those who think differently.
Read the full statement here. A complete report from the Carter Center is expected in the coming weeks.
The president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, announced yesterday that authorities will conduct an audit of the 46% of voting stations that were not audited on election night. The CNE’s process will mirror that of election night, comparing printed receipts to electronic voting records in a random selection of about two-thirds of the voting stations.
Lucena was adamant about the nature of the process, reportedly saying that under “no circumstance should this be interpreted as a vote count of any kind.” This statement was perhaps related to remarks made by the head of Venezuela’s Supreme Court, Luisa Estela Morales, stating that a vote-by-vote recount, as demanded by the opposition, is impossible due to the nature of Venezuela’s electronic voting system. At the time of the announcement, many in the press characterized the Supreme Court as a pro-government body siding against the opposition’s demands, rather than focusing on the nature of Venezuela’s electoral system and guidelines.
In response to the announcement, Capriles accepted the CNE’s decision and asserted his belief that the irregularities were in “about 12,000 ballot boxes” that would be audited in the forthcoming process. He was also quoted as saying that this “will show the truth to the country”.
Assuming that there were no voting irregularities found during the automatic audit of a random selection of 54% of voting stations, it appears unlikely that the announced audit will uncover widespread acts of fraud or inaccuracies.
The start of the audit process, which is expected to take a month to complete, will be announced next week. Lucena explained the process by saying, “We will select a sample that will be audited for 10 days and a report of the results will be emitted. This procedure will be repeated every 10 days for 30 days in the presence of witnesses from both camps.” Lucena also stated that the CNE’s decision was motivated by the desire to “preserve a climate of harmony between Venezuelans, but also to isolate violent sectors that are irresponsibly trying to harm democracy.”
10:46 AM EDT: UNASUR issues a statement congratulating President Nicolás Maduro and calling for peace
The various governments belonging to UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, issued a joint statement early today congratulating Nicolás Maduro for the results of the elections and as the new president of Venezuela. The statement also called for all parties who participated in the elections to respect the results announced by the electoral authority, the CNE.
UNASUR also reiterated their statements from Monday, just after the results of the elections were announced, that all objections, questions or extraordinary proceedings that are requested by election participants should be channeled and resolved within the proper legal framework. In this light, UNASUR looked favorably upon the CNE’s decision to audit the rest of the voting receipts.
Finally, UNASUR called for an end to all violent actions and attitudes that risked peace in Venezuela, and it launched a commission to accompany the investigation into the violence that occurred on April 15th.
5:36 PM EDT [April 18, 2013]: The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) have sent an open letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to recognize the results of Venezuela's election. The letter from the UE - whose international affairs director was in Venezuela as an election monitor on Sunday - describes Venezuela's electoral process in detail:
3:26 PM EDT: Capriles is considering wither to attend the meeting of UNASUR
Translation: We are evaluating the possibility of traveling to Lima and being present for the UNASUR Meeting, in a Democracy you count the votes!
An Associated Press story contains some details on the specific complaints of the opposition candidate Capriles:
Government backers forced pro-Capriles observers out of 283 polling places at which 722,983 votes were cast, and the lack of witnesses raises the possibility of fraud, including double voting.
Menacing bands of government supporters turned pro-Capriles voters away from the polls.
There were 3,535 damaged voting machines, representing 189,982 votes.
Voting rolls included 600,000 dead people.
The opposition, which formally submitted their complaint to the CNE yesterday, previously released a series of slides on their specific complaints (available here). The AP seems to have misstated the number of alleged damaged voting machines, as the slides released by the Capriles camp show 535 damaged machines, not 3,535. This increases the number of allegedly damaged voting machines by a factor of almost 7.
In the context of this misreporting, it is also important to note that reports indicate the electoral body had voting machines available to replace up to 10 percent of the total. This would easily accommodate replacing 535 malfunctioning machines. According to all available information, broken machines were quickly replaced as needed on election day, allowing everyone to vote. Indeed our live blog from the election notes several instances where this was the case.
1:14 PM EDT: UNASUR Meeting Today on Venezuelan Elections
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) will convene for urgent meetings in Lima, Peru, today to discuss the events in Venezuela following Sunday’s elections. According to press reports, the heads of state of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and host-country (and UNASUR chair) Peru will be in attendance. It is not yet clear whether President Rafael Correa of Ecuador will be able to attend the meeting, as he is traveling in Europe. His Minister of Foreign Relations, Ricardo Patiño, would attend in his absence. Paraguay, the lone South American nation that has not recognized Maduro’s election, has been suspended from UNASUR since its former president, Fernando Lugo, was deposed in a coup last June.
12:15 AM EDT: OAS Recognizes Maduro’s Victory, Leaving Washington Further Isolated
Beyond his decision to recognize the election results, on Wednesday Insulza said, “I have not changed my original opinion (advocating for a vote recount), I believe there is a need for dialogue in Venezuela; in democracy you can win by a single vote”.
Mercopress reports that Insulza added that “we are respectful of the legal and constitutional framework of Venezuela” and “we would have liked a more calm process, but they have taken a decision and I respect and abide that decision.”
10:15 AM EDT: Capriles Officially Files Recount Request, U.S. Endorses It
After two days of confrontational rhetoric and mass protests, Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has finally submitted an official request for a full recount to the country’s election authority, the National Electoral Council (CNE). Carlos Ocariz, head of Capriles’ campaign team, told reporters that they met for over two hours with CNE President Tibisay Lucena yesterday to request a full review of “ballots, meeting minutes, voting machines, records and files" associated with Sunday’s election.
4:31 PM EDT [April 17, 2013] : Smartmatic, the company that provides voting technology for Venezuela, describes the April 14 election
The firm notes that "some 15 audits of the voting platform were carried out, observed and certified by the country’s political parties." Smartmatic also highlights the fact that it "distributed the voting platform among 13,683 polling centers, able to receive 18,903,143 vote-registered citizens. In total, the election employed 39,282 voting machines."
The NLG calls upon the U.S. to honor the Venezuelan election as the nations of the world honor U.S. elections without question. Moreover, as recognized by Jimmy Carter, Venezuela's election infrastructure, with its secure electronic system backed by paper ballots, is "the best in the world," and therefore deserves at least as much respect as our own.
The full statement is available here.
Earlier, Brazil's former president Lula da Silva had acknowledged Maduro as the winner of the election and told the US not to interfere. "Americans should take care of their own business a little and let us decide our own destiny," Lula said at a rally in Brazil. "I want to ask for a round of applause for the election of Comrade Maduro in Venezuela," Lula said at a political rally in Brazil, blasting the US for questioning the Venezuelan election result. "Americans every now and then decide to criticize the results of an election," said the popular leader who was Brazil's president for eight years between 2003 and 2011.
1:12 PM EDT: Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on the elections in Venezuela
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission issued the following statement [PDF] today:
12:58 PM EDT: John Kerry's Remarks on Situation in Venezuela from :
"'We think there ought to be a recount. I don't know whether it's going to happen in the next days," Kerry told US lawmakers, appearing before them for the first time since becoming secretary of state.'"
'"If it's under contested circumstances, I'd be very doubtful of that," Kerry told the committee.'
Read the full Agence France-Presse article here.
Statement by the Press Secretary on the Situation in Venezuela
The United States congratulates the Venezuelan people for their participation in the April 14 presidential elections in a peaceful and orderly manner. We call on the Venezuelan government to respect the rights of Venezuelan citizens to peaceful assembly and free speech. We also urge everyone to refrain from violence and other measure that could raise tensions at this difficult moment. The United States notes the acceptance by both candidates for an audit of the ballots and supports calls for a credible and transparent process to reassure the Venezuelan people regarding the results. Such a process would contribute to political dialogue and help advance the country’s democracy.
CEPR Senior Associate for International Policy Alex Main reports from Caracas on Democracy Now! this morning. On the program, he explains the audit of more than half of the votes that has already taken place, the violence following the opposition's refusal to recognize the results, and the regional response condemning U.S. interference. To watch the segment or read the full transcript, click here.
Spain has now recognized the election of Nicolás Maduro as president of Venezuela, backing off from its earlier support for the U.S. position. This is a major blow to the U.S. efforts, and is similar to what happened after the 2002 coup, where Washington tried to put together a coalition of countries to recognize the coup government, but failed.
"Spain has recognised the Venezuelan authorities' decision to confirm Nicolas Maduro as the winner of Venezuela's tight presidential election after initially expressing doubts over the outcome of the vote.
This morning, at a regular meeting of the permanent council of the Organization of American States, member countries have used the opportunity to congratulate the Venezuelan people and president Maduro for his election. Statements from Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay (as pro-tempore chair of Mercosur), Haiti (on behalf of Caricom), Colombia, Peru and Brazil have all been made thus far. The United States meanwhile, again reiterated calls for a recount. OAS Secretary General Insulza made a statement condemning the violence that has left at least 7 dead and calling on both sides to find a common way forward. The full video link will be posted here, later.
From the annals of imperial asymmetry: On November 2, 2004, George W. Bush beat John Kerry 50.7 percent to 48.3 percent. Venezuela’s foreign minister immediately (either that night or the day after) recognized the results: “we will hope that in this second mandate we can improve our relations.”
9:20 AM EDT: Argentina Calls on U.S. to Recognize Venezuelan Government:
“With all humbleness we request the US government to recognize the Venezuelan government following free transparent elections” said Cristina Fernandez, adding “it’s the best way to achieve and ensure peace”.
Full report from Mercopress here.
6:30 PM EDT [April 16, 2013]: Today's State Department Briefing is up; U.S. is "not there" Yet:
According to State Department Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell, the United States is “not there” yet when asked if they were ready to congratulate Maduro on his election. Ventrell said that it was “difficult to understand” the “CNE’s decision to declare Mr. Maduro the victor before completing a full recount.”
QUESTION: So, Venezuela.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: You didn’t want to answer the hypothetical question yesterday, so – but the hypothetical has happened.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay.
QUESTION: So what do you make of the fact that they went ahead and certified the result without a full recount or a full audit? What do you make of the violence that has ensued?
MR. VENTRELL: So, Matt, as we noted yesterday, given the very close results, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles and a member of the electoral council, the CNE, as the – it’s referred to, called for a 100 percent audit, a recount of the results. Ruling party candidate Maduro also endorsed this idea. And we said yesterday, a full recount would be important, prudent, and necessary in ensuring that an evenly divided Venezuelan electorate is confident that the election meets their democratic aspirations. The OAS and the EU have expressed similar views. And there are also outstanding allegations of voting irregularities raised by the opposition.
So the CNE’s decision to declare Mr. Maduro the victor before completing a full recount is difficult to understand, and they did not explain their haste in taking this decision.
QUESTION: Sorry. You’re still sticking with this line that Maduro called for a whole – a full recount?
MR. VENTRELL: My understanding is he did endorse that idea at one point yesterday. Now, where he eventually ended up throughout the day – but there was a moment where he endorsed the idea of a recount and said there was nothing to hide. So those were his words.
QUESTION: Okay. So what’s your next step, or is there one?
MR. VENTRELL: We’ll be absolutely in consultation with the OAS, the EU, regional partners, and we continue to believe that resolving the voting irregularities and the calls for a recount would do much to ensure that the Venezuelan people feel included in the process and that their democratic aspirations are being met. So --
QUESTION: So you still think that they should recount the votes?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, that’s been our position. That hasn’t happened.
QUESTION: No, no, even – no, after the vote has been certified, after the election’s been certified, you still think that there should be a recount?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, under the Venezuelan constitution, it’s ultimately up to the CNE to certify the election results, which they’ve done.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but what’s the U.S. position? Is the U.S. position that there still should be a recount?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, our position is that --
QUESTION: Or the Venezuelan people have confidence --
MR. VENTRELL: Our position is that – let me finish, Matt – our position is that resolving these irregularities would have engendered more confidence in the Venezuelan people in the quality of this vote. And so that is the concern we’ve expressed. But in terms of where we go forward, I just don’t have anything more for you today.
QUESTION: Well, okay. So are you prepared to congratulate Mr. Maduro on his victory?
MR. VENTRELL: We’re not there.
QUESTION: Why? The vote has been certified. He has been elected. So either you say, “Okay, and we’ll work with you,” or, “try to work with you,” or you say, “We don’t think that you’re the real winner,” or, “We think that there is no winner because the vote hasn’t been certified,” so – I mean, are you prepared to work with President Maduro, President-Elect Maduro?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, we said we’re prepared to work with whichever government comes out of this electoral process. Having said that, given what happened yesterday, we’re consulting with key partners, the OAS, the EU, other regional neighbors as we examine this. We have – the scenario is you have a deeply divided country, roughly evenly divided, and so we thought it was important to resolve some of these concerns, and that’s why we’re going to consult with some of our partners and concerned parties.
QUESTION: Well, do you – so do you or do you not recognize the result, the certified result, as being reflective of the wishes of the Venezuelan people?
MR. VENTRELL: We’re not making a judgment one way or another. This is a Venezuelan process under the Venezuelan constitution. The CNE does have this responsibility, but again, we’ve had our concerns, and many others, including the OAS and the EU, have had their concerns, too.
QUESTION: All right. Well, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil have all kind of – have all accepted the Maduro – Maduro’s victory. These would seem to be – at least Mexico and Colombia and to a certain extent Brazil – would seem to be some of your top friends in this region. I just am not sure why – when you reserve judgment, what are you reserving it for, because the vote’s already been certified?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, we’re just not there yet, Matt. Obviously, we have nearly half the country that had a different view. And so we’ll continue to consult, but we’re not there yet.
QUESTION: One last one?
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on – do you have anything to say about the violence that apparently – I think that several people were killed.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. Let me be very clear on this. Violence has no place in a democratic electoral process, so we join in others in calling on all Venezuelans to refrain from violence at this time.
QUESTION: What about protests? There is a call for --
MR. VENTRELL: People, as we say in all countries, should be allowed to peacefully protest and make their views and their voices heard, but there’s no place for violence.
QUESTION: And what – following all these questions of Matt, yesterday the Foreign Minister of Venezuela Jaua rejected the OAS position. He also rejected Spain’s position. He said that Spain should care about their unemployment and not about what happened in Venezuela. These kind of comments that he’s saying, I want to know – tomorrow there is a special session of the OAS – if the U.S. is going to present the case tomorrow in the permanent council tomorrow.
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have anything to preview about our activities at the OAS. As I said, we continue to consult, but I don’t have anything to preview in terms of tomorrow’s session one way or another.
QUESTION: But you are aware that there is high division in the OAS where Venezuela – it seems not to care about the OAS position, because they didn’t care about what Insulza said proposing – following the Inter-American Charter, right, to recount the votes and have the democracy of Venezuela in high standard?
MR. VENTRELL: One of our concerns – and this is broadly shared and this is, I think, why the OAS Secretary General made the statement that he did is – we didn’t have the kind of independent and respected international monitors that are common in so many other countries throughout the hemisphere. So that’s part of the concern that we’ve expressed, and the OAS was clear too.
QUESTION: If the U.S. has to evaluate the democracy of Venezuela from 0 to 10, where do you put it in this moment?
MR. VENTRELL: We don’t give grades from this podium, but thanks for the try.
The United States and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States crassly declared their support for the opposition’s demand for a full re-count of votes in Venezuela. On Monday, the White House deemed a “100 percent audit” of the results “an important, prudent and necessary step.” The OAS also released a statement saying that Secretary General José Miguel Insulza “expressed his support for this initiative.” Insulza’s comment, contrary to some press reports, does not represent perspective of the OAS as a whole.
Looking around the region, though, one sees a very different picture. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Uruguay all sent official congratulations to Maduro for his victory. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) also recognized Maduro as Venezuela’s new president. Brazil’s foreign minister Antonio Patriota called the election a “victory for democracy.” Beyond these statements, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Guatemala, and Mexico, all offered their congratulations to Maduro for his election as president.
The U.S. response to Maduro’s narrower-than-expected victory tramples on Venezuelan institutions that clearly lay out the protocol following elections. The National Electoral Council (CNE) audits over half of the votes in the hours after the polls close. The body is able to do this due to the voting system’s sophistication and security, which Jimmy Carter describes as “the best in the world.” Furthermore, it should be noted that the pro-opposition representative on the Council has said publicly that he has no doubts that the results are correct.
Given the broad regional support for Venezuela’s democratic institutions, the U.S. call for a full re-count only serves to promote conflict, as was warned on this blog yesterday. Unfortunately this conflict has now escalated. Reports from Venezuela indicate that at least four people have been killed, government agencies and news agencies have been attacked, PSUV headquarters were on fire, and intimidating crowds were protesting outside the house of CNE (National Electoral Council) president Tibisay Lucena. Washington should not only unequivocally denounce the violence, but should respect Venezuela’s democratic institutions by recognizing the election results. Washington’s isolation in this case is likely to increase if this drags on.
6:15 PM EDT: CEPR will be live-blogging post-election events and analysis following the Presidential elections in Venezuela on Sunday, April 14.
The Venezuelan opposition has taken the position that the results of Sunday's presidential election are not valid, and are calling for a "100 percent recount." Perhaps equally importantly, the White House and State Department have publicly joined their campaign. This means that there is both an international as well as a domestic (Venezuelan) campaign to contest the results of the election, most likely regardless of the CNE (National Electoral Council). There has already been violence, and since this is the first time in many years that the U.S. government has refused to recognize the results of a Venezuelan election, there is a possibility of more conflict.
So far, the United States is the only government in the hemisphere to join the opposition's campaign against the election results. Most of the countries in Latin America have recognized the results and congratulated President Nicolas Maduro on his electoral victory.