Merida, February 19, 2018, (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro urged opposition parties to participate in upcoming presidential elections this past Thursday in an international press conference held in Caracas.
“Let the person who receives most votes win,” he told national and international journalists.
“I want the opposition to sign up their candidates. There are ample electoral guarantees given… let's compete in the streets, head to head,” the head of state added.
To date, opposition parties have not named a candidate for the upcoming elections.
“I am fulfilling the agreement of the Dominican Republic, which the opposition didn’t want to sign, but I gave my word [that I would sign it],” he affirmed, making reference to “more than 400 calls for dialogue” with the opposition.
The Agreement of the Dominican Republic between Maduro’s government and representatives from the opposition agreed on a date for the upcoming elections and on electoral guarantees, including the presence of international observers to safeguard transparency and fairness. Following an alleged phone call with US Secretary of Stae Rex Tillerson moments before signing, opposition representatives refused to sign the document despite months of negotiations and pressure from the mediators for them ratify the accord.
“In Venezuela, there will be presidential elections and the people will come out to vote in their millions and millions because what is important in elections is the people,” Maduro assured journalists. “Rain, thunder, or lightning, we are going to have elections.”
His comments come in response to statements by US Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who has publicly called for a coup d’état in Venezuela to avoid the upcoming elections.
Leading opposition figure Henry Ramus Allup has indicated he will respond to Maduro’s invitation in the near future, dismissing the electoral guarantees and the conditions for his party’s participation as “Nicaraguan style guarantees”. On the eve of October regional elections, the opposition accused the government of bringing in Nicaraguan electoral advisors to “rig” the election, though evidence of widespread vote tampering has yet to be presented.
“Or we will go in all together to participate with just one candidate, or we will all say no, that the conditions aren’t right and we can’t participate,” he declared.
In the same press conference, Maduro announced that the international accompaniment mission is to be expanded for the upcoming elections so as to safeguard the transparency of the process. He said he was adhering to agreements made as part of the negotiation process in the Dominican Republic, even though no final deal was reached.
“We are making sure there are ample guarantees for the right to vote this 22nd April,” assured Maduro.
“Venezuela is a democratic country… There will be no coup d’état, what there is going to be is elections in which the people will decide who will be their president."
Venezuela regularly receives international electoral observer missions, which include technical representatives from the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA), who accompany every one of the over 20 audits involved in an electoral period. In addition, representatives from Spain, UK, USA, France, Russia, Canada, Ireland (amongst others), as well as numerous Latin American countries, have also officially accompanied previous elections at the behest of the CNE.
Maduro additionally explained that he requested electoral authorities to extend the period in which new voters can register to vote, or in which citizens can register a change in their voting centre, especially in Venezuelan embassies and consulates, where Venezuelan citizens registered in other countries exercise their right to vote.
“I have adopted a request from opposition groupings to extend the registration period in our embassies and consulates and I have requested that the National Electoral Council extend this period until February 25," he explained.
New voter registration is to be extended by another 10 days in the offices of the National Electoral Council in Venezuela and for another 15 days at all Venezuelan embassies and consulates.
Furthermore, Maduro announced that his government has agreed to re-open its consulate in Miami, USA, which had been controversially closed since 2012, allegedly as a response to US meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.
“We will proceed to immediately open the Miami consulate so that Venezuelans [who are registered there] can sign up to the Electoral Register,” declared the president.
It is estimated that 150,000 Venezuelans live in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, which are the regions that correspond to the Miami consulate.
Venezuelans who have resident visas and who have registered at their closest embassy or consulate have always been able to vote in presidential elections in Venezuela. Embassies and consulates set up voting centres in their premises on election day, and recent elections have shown a strong tendency amongst Venezuela’s living abroad to favour opposition candidates.
Fight against corruption
At the press conference, President Maduro also explained that advances are being made in finding those responsible for what his government has defined as corruption and attempts to destabilize the country.
“All of those who were captured for the attack against the Paramacay Barracks (this past 6th August) have confessed and we know who finances them and their networks… There is a constant conspiracy against Venezuela from Miami,” he claimed.
In August, a small number of soldiers mutinied at the Paramacay Barracks and unsuccessfully attempted a rebellion against the government.
Maduro also announced that his government is to issue a red alert for the capture of the ex-attorney general, Luisa Ortega Diaz, who fled the country last year to avoid accusations that she had established extensive extortion networks within the law-enforcement body.
“Venezuela is going to request that Interpol issue a red alert to detain those people implicated in this criminal network of extortion which was operating in the Attorney General’s offices and police bodies. I hope they issue it, just as Venezuela fulfills its obligations with red alerts and deports those criminal and drug barons which come into our country, we hope that other countries hand our criminals over to us,” Maduro explained.
Maduro also suggested that the United States had bribed Ortega Diaz’s husband, German Ferrer, who is also accused of corruption.
“The US was able to bribe her husband when they found millions of dollars in bank accounts in fiscal paradises around the world. Luisa Ortega didn’t do what she had to do during the attempted coup d’état (of 2014) … because she was already compromised, she was already morally bankrupt,” said Maduro, referring to a previous round of violent anti-government protests that claimed 43 lives between February and April of 2014.