[UPDATED] Venezuelan Government Invites Int’l Observers as Opposition Splits Over Elections

Opposition leaders Juan Guaido and Henrique Capriles have traded accusations in recent days.


Mérida, September 4, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has invited the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) to monitor the December 6 National Assembly (AN) elections.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza wrote on Twitter that letters had been sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell explaining electoral guarantees and inviting the bodies to send observers.

“Your participation in this process will have a positive contribution to an atmosphere of democratic understanding between Venezuelans and support political, peaceful and negotiated solutions to existing issues,” the letter read.

At the time of writing there have been no reactions from either the UN or the EU. While both have previously voiced support for dialogue processes, the European bloc recently vowed not to recognize the parliamentary election, which will elect 277 deputies for the 2021-2026 term.

The appeal to the international instances comes on the heels of President Maduro granting pardons to 110 opposition figures. This includes a number of AN deputies and other leaders charged or convicted for taking part in activities such as the violent “guarimba” street protests, the 2018 assassination attempt against Maduro, or the April 30, 2019 failed putsch.

On Thursday, the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and its allies submitted their electoral candidates, with eight current cabinet members heading the list and subsequently replaced. Current state television VTV president Freddy Nanez replaced Jorge Rodriguez as communications minister, Noris Herrera replaced Blanca Eekhout as communes minister, Carolys Perez took over from Asia Villegas as minister for women, while there were also changes at the prisons, mining, youth, urban agriculture and indigenous peoples ministries.

The electoral scenario has also led to bitter infighting amongst the opposition ranks. On Wednesday, two-time former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles called on opposition leader Juan Guaido to stop “playing at government on the internet.”

“Either you’re the government, or you’re the opposition. You can’t be both,” he said during an online broadcast.

The comments came in response to criticism from Guaido after Capriles and fellow opposition member Stalin Gonzalez held a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu concerning electoral participation and guarantees.

“These negotiations were held without the knowledge and permission of the ‘Interim Government’ and our international allies,” read a statement published by Guaido’s office.

The opposition lawmaker proclaimed himself “interim president” in January 2019 and was immediately backed by Washington and its allies. He went on to lead several unsuccessful efforts to overthrow the government by force, but a host of scandals saw his position increasingly questioned by other high-ranking opposition figures.

Guaido has lobbied for a boycott of the December AN elections and called on opposition figures to join a “unitary path” to oust the Maduro government which would extend his “interim presidency” into 2021.

However, other anti-government politicians have refused to rally behind him, with some urging voters to take to the polls, and hardline figures such as Maria Corina Machado calling for a foreign intervention.

For its part, Washington downplayed talk of a possible military intervention, with the Trump administration’s Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams criticizing opposition leaders “who only think that the magic moment of a military intervention will arrive” in a recent interview.

However, the veteran official, who is known for his role in the Iraq war and the Reagan administration’s Central America policy, has reiterated that the US will continue supporting Guaido while tightening sanctions against the Venezuelan economy.

[UPDATE] The Trump administration doubled down on its opposition to the upcoming elections by sanctioning National Electoral Council (CNE) President Indira Alfonzo on Friday. Also sanctioned were fellow CNE rector Jose Gutierrez Parra, Solicitor General Reinaldo Munoz Pedroza and former Anzoategui Governor David De Lima. Any assets held by the officials in the United States are now blocked.

A Treasury Department statement argued that the four are part of an “election interference scheme to prevent free and fair parliamentary elections.” The statement goes on to accuse De Lima of taking part in a scheme to buy deputy votes which allegedly led to Guaido losing the AN presidency in January.