Bogota, October 18, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Twenty-eight European Ministers jointly agreed to “establish the legal framework” for pursuing sanctions against the Venezuelan government Monday in the wake of the country’s regional elections, Europa Press has reported.
Venezuela’s government won eighteen out of twenty-three states in regional elections this past Sunday, but the results have been disputed by the right-wing opposition, the US, Canada and France, on the basis of alleged foul play.
Opposition spokespeople have so far been unable to corroborate their allegations of fraud, while international electoral observers have testified to the veracity of the results. Venezuelan political commentators have said that mass abstention of opposition voters due to disillusionment with their leaders was the reason for the shock result.
Speaking at an EU meeting in Luxembourg Monday, EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini cautiously described the election results as a “surprise” and asked for investigations to “clarify what happened in reality”.
Ministers also agreed to advance in the preparation of “selective, gradual and reversible” sanctions against members of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro administration, with some apparent reticence from Portugal.
The EU has been discussing the potential implementation of sanctions against individuals within the Venezuelan government since the US imposed economic sanctions against Venezuela in August. Canada also followed suit shortly after with asset freezes targeting top Caracas officials.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro responded to the decision Tuesday, accusing Mogherini of only listening to opposition voices in Venezuela, and inviting her to call him or arrange a meeting in Brussels.
Meanwhile, Canada officially added its voice to the international chorus of condemnation against the regional election results Tuesday.
In an official statement,, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said that “Sunday’s elections were characterized by many irregularities that raise significant and credible concerns regarding the validity of the results.”
She also added her government would continue to “stand for the Venezuelan people and for the defence and restoration of democracy in Venezuela.”
Freeland had already tweeted on Monday that her government was “"very concerned by yesterday's polling centre closures & relocations - clearly favouring #Venezuela regime, hindering free + fair elections”. Her stance was criticized by Canada’s Communist Party.
Canada is a member of the so-called Lima Group – a regional organization made up of right-wing regional governments opposed to the Maduro administration, including Argentina, Brasil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru.
On Tuesday, the Lima Group likewise claimed that the elections were marred by irregularities, and demanded a full “independent audit” of results. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had already called for an audit of 100 percent of votes Sunday.
The Lima Group is due next to meet in Canada on October 26, when it will discuss Venezuela’s regional elections and the ongoing stand-off between the government and opposition.
But not all international governments have condemned the elections, and the Maduro administration has received supportive statements from Russia, Cuba, Bolivia and other Latin American leaders.
For its part, Russia said the elections represented a new opportunity to address the “pressing economic and social problems facing the country” and criticised the opposition’s refusal to accept the results.
"The population demonstrated its commitment to civilized, first of all electoral, ways of settling political differences," reads a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“Given this, the opposition’s refusal to recognize the results of the voting and calls for more street protests and tougher international sanctions are fraught with negative consequences. This may frustrate the emerging scenario of compromise and trigger another spiral of violence and confrontation,” the ministry added.
In addition, Russia urged Venezuelan political forces to refrain from violence, and spoke in support of dialogue between the opposition and national government "to stop attempts at destructive interference from outside.”
"The counter-productiveness of force and sanction pressure on Venezuela is obvious," the ministry underscored.
Meanwhile, the government of Cuba also congratulated the Maduro government on the election win.
“Dear Nicolas: I congratulate you for the results of state elections. Venezuela has shown another example of peace, democratic vocation, courage and dignity,” Cuban President Raul Castro said in a letter published by Cuba’s Foreign Relations Ministry.
Bolivian President Evo Morales also took to Twitter to say that “In Venezuela, peace triumphed over violence, the people triumphed over the empire. [Organization of American States Secretary-General] Luis Almagro lost, along with his boss [US President] Trump”.
En Venezuela triunfó la paz frente a la violencia, triunfó el pueblo frente al imperio. Perdió Luis Almagro con su jefe Trump.
— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) October 16, 2017
In similar statements, former Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said that the election results had “exposed” how biased international media coverage is on Venezuela.
Many international media outlets had predicted that Venezuela’s opposition would sweep to victory on Sunday, in a repeat of the 2015 National Assembly elections.