The US Continues to Undermine Democracy in Venezuela

by DANIEL KOVALIK

I just returned from Venezuela where I was one of 170 international election observers from around the world, including India, Guyana, Surinam, Colombia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Scotland, England, the United States, Guatemala, Argentina, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Brazil, Chile, Greece, France, Panama and Mexico.   These observers included two former Presidents (of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic), judges, lawyers and numerous high ranking officials of national electoral councils.   What we found was an election system which was transparent, inherently reliable, well-run and thoroughly audited.

Indeed, as to the auditing, what has been barely mentioned by the mainstream press is the fact that over 54% of all votes are, and indeed have already been, audited to ensure that the electronic votes match up with the paper receipts which serve as back-up for the electronic votes.   And, this auditing is done in the presence of witnesses from both the governing and opposition parties right in the local polling place itself.    I witnessed just such an audit at the end of election day on Sunday.  And, as is the usual case, the paper results matched up perfectly with the electronic ones.   As the former Guatemalan President, Alvaro Colom, who served as an observer, opined, the vote in Venezuela is “secure” and easily verifiable.

In short, the observers’ experience this past week aligns with former U.S. president Jimmy Carter’s observation last year that Venezuela’s electoral system is indeed the “the best in the world.”

VOTER001

Proud Voter: Acevedo, Venezuela. Photo: Dan Kovalik 2013.

And so, what were the results of the election?   With an impressive 79% of registered voters going to the polls, Nicolas Maduro won by over 260,000 votes, with a 1.6 percentage point margin over Henrique Capriles (50.7 to 49.1 percent).   While this was certainly a close race, 260,000 votes is a comfortable victory, certainly by U.S. election standards.   Thus, recall that John F. Kennedy beat Richard Nixon in 1960 with 49.7% of the vote to Nixon’s 49.6%.   In addition, George W. Bush became President in 2000, though losing the popular vote to Al Gore, with 47.87% of the vote to Gore’s 48.38 percent, and with the entire race coming down to several hundred votes in Florida.  And, while the State of Florida itself decided that it was necessary to have a hand re-count of the ballots there, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned this decision and blocked the re-count.   In none of these cases did any nation in the world insist upon a recount or hesitate in recognizing the man declared to be the winner.   Indeed, had a country like Venezuela done so, we would have found such a position absurd.    The U.S.’s current position vis a vis Venezuela is no less absurd.

The U.S.’s position is all the more ridiculous given its quick recognition of the coup government in Paraguay after the former Bishop turned President, Fernando Lugo, was ousted in 2012, and its recognition of the 2009 elections in Honduras despite the fact that the U.S.’s previously-stated precondition for recognizing this election – the return of President Manual Zelaya to power after his forcible ouster by the military – never occurred.    Of course, this even pales in comparison to the U.S.’s active involvement in violent coups against democratically-elected leaders in Latin America (e.g., against President Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, against President Allende in Chile in 1973, and against President Aristide in Haiti in 2004).

And, the U.S.’s failure to recognize the Venezuelan elections is having devastating consequences in Venezuela, for it is emboldening the Venezuelan opposition to carry out violence in Venezuela in order to destabilize that country.   Unlike Al Gore in 2000 who stepped aside for George W. Bush in the interest of his country and the U.S. Constitution, the Venezuelan opposition, being led by Henrique Capriles, clearly wants to foster chaos and crisis in Venezuela in order to topple the Maduro government by force (just as the same forces represented by Capriles forcibly kidnapped and briefly overthrew President Chavez, with U.S. support, in 2002).   Thus, reasonably believing itself to have the backing of the U.S. and its military, the opposition is causing mayhem in Venezuela, including burning down clinics, destroying property, attacking Cuban doctors and destroying ruling party building.   In all, 7 Venezuelans are dead and dozens injured in this opposition-led violence.

There is no doubt that the U.S. could halt this violence right now by recognizing the results of the Venezuelan elections, just as the nations of the world recognized, without question, the results of the election which put John F. Kennedy in power in 1960 and George W. Bush in power in 2000.

The reason the U.S. is not doing so is obvious – it does not like the Venezuelan’s chosen form of government, and welcomes that government’s demise, even through violence.    The U.S., therefore, is not supporting democracy and stability in Venezuela; it is intentionally undermining it.

Update:  Venezuelan government agrees to expand audit of votes to 100 percent of all votes cast 

Daniel Kovalik is a labor and human rights lawyer living in Pittsburgh, and teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

 

 

Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
September 4-6, 2015
Louis Proyect
Migrating Through Hell: Quemada-Diez’s “La Jaula de Oro”
Charles R. Larson
Class and Colonialism in British Cairo
September 03, 2015
Sal Rodriguez
How California Prison Hunger Strikes Sparked Solitary Confinement Reforms
Lawrence Ware
Leave Michael Vick Alone: the Racism and Misogyny of Football Fans
Dave Lindorff
Is Obama the Worst President Ever?
Vijay Prashad
The Return of Social Democracy?
Ellen Brown
Quantitative Easing for People: Jeremy Corbyn’s Radical Proposal
Paul Craig Roberts
The Rise of the Inhumanes: Barron, Bybee, Yoo and Bradford
Binoy Kampmark
Inside Emailgate: Hillary’s Latest Problem
Lynn Holland
For the Love of Water: El Salvador’s Mining Ban
Geoff Dutton
Time for Some Anger Management
Jack Rasmus
The New Colonialism: Greece and Ukraine
Norman Pollack
American Jews and the Iran Accord: The Politics of Fear
John Grant
Sorting Through the Bullshit in America
David Macaray
The Unbearable Lightness of Treaties
Chad Nelson
Lessig Uses a Scalpel Where a Machete is Needed
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People