Venezuela Votes Soon — And the U.S. Isn’t Missing Its Chance to Meddle

Source: Huffington Post

The campaign for Venezuela’s Dec. 6 National Assembly election is only three weeks long, but in the United States it started about six months ago with leaks by anonymous U.S. officials making unsubstantiated allegations that Venezuelan officials were running a “cartel.” More recently, relatives of Venezuela’s first lady Cilia Flores were arrested and taken (not extradited) to the U.S. after being lured by DEA agents to Haiti. Then last week, when an opposition politician was shot and killed, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, immediately joined Washington in trying to make it look like a political murder. Within a day, evidence from investigations appeared to show that the victim was likely a gang member killed by a rival gang.

To understand the strategy of the U.S. government and its allies — including Almagro and now the president-elect of Argentina — we have to look at what happened in the 2013 Venezuelan presidential election. In 2013, President Maduro won by 1.5 percentage points, but there was absolutely no doubt about the result. Because of the extensive safeguards in the voting process — including an immediate audit, with witnesses, of a random sample of 54 percent of voting stations — former U.S. president and election expert Jimmy Carter called Venezuela’s election system “the best in the world.”

But the Venezuelan opposition, not for the first time, rejected the result and claimed fraud, taking to the streets with violent demonstrations. The U.S. government, with almost no allies, backed the protestors by refusing to recognize the election results. The stage was set for increasingly violent conflict, but South American governments stepped in and publicly pressured Washington to join the rest of the world in accepting the results.

Now you can see where this is going, and possibly even predict the near future. The Venezuelan opposition is currently leading the government by a sizable margin in most national polls — although this appears to be narrowing in the past week or so — and this is what the U.S. and international media have been reporting. But these polls do not necessarily indicate who is going to win the National Assembly, or by how much. The margin of victory is very important because, for example, a two-thirds majority will give the legislature much more power.

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