Maduro's party tightens hold on Venezuela

In this July file photo, hundreds of Venezuelans, including children, crowd Dock Road, Port of Spain waiting to enter the Cruise Ship Complex to board a ferry to return to Venezuela. Photo by Sureash Cholai
In this July file photo, hundreds of Venezuelans, including children, crowd Dock Road, Port of Spain waiting to enter the Cruise Ship Complex to board a ferry to return to Venezuela. Photo by Sureash Cholai

Hundreds of Venezuelan refugees in Trinidad and Tobago are frustrated over the results of the regional and local elections in their country on Sunday, where Chavismo won 20 out of 23 states.

Chavismo is the left-wing movement associated with late president Hugo Chavez and current president Nicolás Maduro.

Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) also won the contest to elect the mayor of Caracas.

Abstention by 58.2 per cent of the electorate and disunity in the opposition were reportedly key to the results, which the National Electoral Council (CNE) confirmed on Monday.

For the first time in 15 years, there was a European Union election observer mission.

The electoral body authorised 21,159,846 Venezuelans to choose 23 governors, 335 mayors, 253 legislators and more than 2,471 councillors. The president of the CNE, Pedro Calzadilla, reported a turnout of 41.80 per cent, or 8,151,793 voters.

Under Venezuelan electoral regulations, voters abroad can only vote in presidential elections. So Venezuelans in TT could not vote, but posted hundreds of comments on the results online.

Many comments were directed against opposition leaders for their lack of unity and others for calling for abstention.

Dennys Hernández, a refugee lawyer in TT, said, "We must extract that it was positive the political factors have resumed the electoral path, although Chavismo won the elections because of the selfishness and ego of some opposition candidates who did not want to go to previous elections to determine the true leadership in the opposition."

Hernández told Newsday: "Starting today we must begin to write a new page and we hope the undecided leaders and voters will understand once and for all that politics must be handled with capacity and responsibility."

He said the election results were discouraging for Venezuelan migrants, who await political and economic changes in their country in order to return.

“Let's not lose faith and hope. That the opposition has decided to participate in elections again is positive for the future."

Jacobo Castillo was more critical of his Venezuelan compatriots in TT, to whom he also attributed some responsibility.

“With the contribution or remittances that we send to our family and friends, it makes them feel comfortable. I helped this electoral defeat by being out of the country and sending remittances to at least two of my closest relatives – who did not bother to go out to fight or vote."

Other Venezuelans, such as Luis Marcano, said if Chavismo won the elections again, it is because people still believe in the movement.

“Chavismo has many people, millions of people who receive benefits, and if they went out to vote, it is because they are comfortable. The problem is with the opposition."

The president, Nicolás Maduro, asked for respect for the results and celebrated the victory of his party: "My call to all, winners and non-winners, is to respect the results, political dialogue and national reunification."

The opposition paid dearly for its lack of unity, which sowed mistrust in a large part of the electorate and is said to have been a factor in the low turnout. Opposition candidates achieved victory in only three states: Cojedes (48.52), Zulia (56.90) and Nueva Esparta-Margarita (42.56).

Although Chavismo celebrated and ended the count, the opposition warned the result could be reversed in two states, where ten per cent of the votes have yet to be counted and the difference is still very narrow.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who is recognised as the legitimate president by 50 countries, was against Sunday's elections.

Guaidó told the media on Monday the elections showed a "clear silence of the citizens" and stressed that the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro did not gain the majority of votes.

"Today is a day of attention to citizens and reflection on the part of those who call themselves leaders in Venezuela," he said. "It is a moment of reflection and unity with Venezuelans and for Venezuelans."

The latest CNE report on Monday night said Chavismo won 205 mayoralties, the opposition 117, and another 13 winners have yet to be defined.


"Maduro’s party tightens hold on Venezuela"

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