Venezuelan Opposition Protests Proposed UN Electoral Observer Mission

Anti-government groups claim that an international monitoring mission would “validate” what they describe as an “electoral fraud” in May 20 elections.


A small group of opposition supporters demonstrated outside the offices of the UN in Caracas on Monday. (Marco Bello/Reuters)
A small group of opposition supporters demonstrated outside the offices of the UN in Caracas on Monday. (Marco Bello/Reuters)
By Lucas Koerner
Short URL
Caracas, March 13, 2018 ( – Supporters of Venezuela’s Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) opposition coalition marched on the headquarters of the United Nations in Caracas Monday to protest the possibility of the international body sending an observer mission to monitor the country’s upcoming May 20 elections.
“What we have asked the United Nations today is not to validate the electoral fraud in May,” said Delsa Solorzano, vice-president of the center-right New Era party
In a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the opposition alleged that an observer mission would “give a veneer of legality to an [electoral] process that lacks it.”
Last month, the Venezuelan electoral authorities formally invited the UN to send an observer mission to monitor the upcoming elections as part of an agreement negotiated between the government and the MUD, which the latter ultimately refused to sign. The UN is yet to confirm whether it will send a delegation in May.
Following the breakdown of internationally-mediated talks, the main opposition coalition announced it would boycott the presidential elections – which were then set for April 22 – claiming the date and electoral guarantees were inadequate to ensure a free and fair contest.
However on March 1, several smaller opposition parties led by former Lara Governor Henri Falcon broke ranks with the MUD and signed a deal with the ruling United Socialist Party and its leftist allies moving the presidential election to May 20 and hold municipal and state legislative elections on the same day. Although the agreement featured various safeguards previously demanded by the MUD during talks – including observers from the UN and other international bodies, equal access to media, and an ample window for voter registration – the anti-government coalition dismissed the deal as a “farce” and vowed to go ahead with its boycott.
Turnout in Monday’s demonstration was, nonetheless, small in number, particularly in comparison to the mass protests organized by the MUD to demand early presidential elections last year, which frequently concluded in deadly acts of violence perpetrated by hardline anti-government groups.
The march was organized by the newly formed “Free Venezuela Broad Front” (FAVL), which includes the parties of the MUD alongside the Fedecameras business lobby, representatives of the Catholic and evangelical churches, several university student and professor organizations, as well as a group of ex-government loyalists led by former Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres.
Taking to Twitter Saturday, President Nicolas Maduro criticized the call for electoral boycott and rejection of UN observers from sections of the opposition.
“Why so much contradiction? What do they [the MUD] want? I want the secretary-general to send a strong commission of observers,” he declared.
Meanwhile, Maduro’s principal rival, Henri Falcon, was in New York Tuesday, where he was reportedly meeting with UN officials.
“He arrives today in New York and he’ll meet with whom he has to meet with, but I can’t confirm 100 percent that he will meet with Guterres,” said a spokesperson for Falcon’s party, Progressive Advance.
Himself a former Chavista, Falcon was expelled from the MUD last month after he registered his candidacy in violation of the coalition’s boycott.
The former Lara governor has repeatedly urged opposition supporters to defy calls for abstention and vote massively on May 20.
While center-right pollster Datanalisis has reported that over 70 percent of Venezuelans intend to vote in the upcoming elections, Falcon and other opposition leaders remain concerned about low turnout among their ranks.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the opposition’s new Broad Front denied the organization was promoting abstention.
“We are not partisans of a policy of abstention. Of course, we think that as things are now, one cannot vote, because we want to vote to truly choose and not give the appearance of legality in the country that doesn’t exist,” explained Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, who was secretary general of the MUD between 2009 and 2014, during an interview with Globovision Tuesday.
However, the former MUD leader did not indicate that the FAVL would encourage its supporters to vote for Falcon.
On the contrary, he suggested that the opposition candidate could abandon his presidential bid.
“I don’t at all rule out that Falcon renounces his candidacy, withdraws from the process when he confirms what we, his friends, have told him… that it’s not a real election,” Aveledo added.
The FAVL has called for nationwide protests against the May 20 elections for this coming Saturday.