Right-wing push to destabilize Venezuela after close election

Violence, instigated by the right wing opposition, has broken out in Venezuela after leftist candidate Nicolas Maduro narrowly won the special election necessitated by the death of Hugo Chavez.

Revised figures show Maduro, the candidate of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), beating the right wing candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski by 50.75 percent to 48.9 percent.

Capriles demanded a recount, as did the United States, Spain, the European Union and the Organization of American States. The White House, which did not congratulate Maduro as winner (it also did not congratulate Chavez on his election victory in October, and USAID funded NGO’s have been working to defeat “Chavismo”, according to Wikileaks reports) said that a recount would be “prudent and necessary”.

Maduro quickly agreed to this “audit” of results on principal, but electoral authorities are reluctant according to reports. Many governments worldwide, including those of most Latin American countries, even those with relatively conservative governments such as Mexico, Haiti and Colombia, have congratulated Maduro on his victory. Most election observers, including a multi-party team from Spain, gave the elections a clean bill of health.

Venezuela uses a sophisticated electronic voting system which also provides voters with paper receipts for their votes. This system has been praised by many outside observers, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

This did not prevent Capriles from calling on his supporters to “take to the streets” to protest the results. In well off neighborhoods and right wing strongholds, demonstrations developed which in some cases have turned violent.

In several areas, right wing mobs set fire to installations belonging to the PSUV and government agencies, including health facilities.

The headquarters of TELESUR, the international TV channel based in Venezuela, was besieged by a right wing mob.

Rioters tried to burn the house of Adan Chavez, governor of Barinas State, who is also the brother of the late president. Another PSUV state governor was shot at, among many incidents reported.

President Maduro angrily denounced these actions and accused their masterminds of trying to initiate a coup.

A rumor was started that Cuban doctors, thousands of whom provide health services in Venezuela in exchange for discounted supplies of Venezuelan oil for Cuba, were involved in destroying ballot materials. No evidence has surfaced about any ballot materials being burned.

During the election campaign, Capriles denounced Cuba and engaged in red-baiting the gist of which was that Maduro is a Cuban puppet. He swore that if elected, he would cut off the supply of discounted oil to Cuba. Capriles was involved in attacks on the Cuban embassy in Caracas during a 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chavez, and has connections with right wing Cuban exiles in the United States. Latest reports are that a medical center where Cuban doctors were working was targeted by right wing demonstrators demanding that the Cuban doctors be expelled from Venezuela.

According to local reports, at least four people have been killed in these disturbances. All were pro-Maduro people shot by anti-Maduro protesters.

Earlier, the Venezuelan government had warned that violent destabilization efforts were being planned, involving mercenaries from El Salvador connected with the U.S. right.

More demonstrations by both pro-Maduro and pro-Capriles groups are scheduled for today, Tuesday.

Diosdado Cabello, the PSUV President of the Venezuelan parliament, denounced the actions and said that he will call for a parliamentary investigation of Capriles’ role in instigating the violence.

Photo: Residents wait in line to enter a polling station to vote in the presidential election in Caracas, Venezuela, early Sunday, April 14. Ariana Cubillos/AP



Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.