CARACAS, Venezuela — During President Maduro’s 2018 reelection campaign, he awarded rally attendees with bags of food. More than half the population also received special government IDs, which are required for accessing housing, pensions and medical procedures. After voting, Maduro instructed voters to scan their ID’s. “We will know who fulfilled their obligations to the Fatherland,” he announced. In September 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Council announced that the Venezuelan government participated in a number of crimes including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and torture of critics and extrajudicial killings. The U.N.’s 411-page report investigated roughly 3,000 cases since 2014 when opposition parties rose up against the increasingly authoritarian Venezuelan government. As a result of these findings, many activists are pushing for free elections in Venezuela.
Negative Effects of Socialist Policies
Venezuela’s history has not always been plagued by political division, soaring inflation, power cuts, food shortages and a mass exodus of its population seeking refuge. Once, it was a resource-rich country with one of the most competitive economies in South America. In addition, free elections in Venezuela were once the norm though now rare.
The late President, Hugo Chávez, introduced socialist policies in an attempt to curb inequality. Unfortunately, many policies backfired, such as the government’s price ceilings. It set these controls in order to make goods more affordable to the poor. The limits had an unforeseen negative effect. They dissuaded businesses from producing more goods since they no longer could make a profit. The expansion of welfare programs, aimed at tackling poverty, ended up costing more than the Venezuelan government could handle. The government printed more money, thus driving up inflation.
Matters only worsened under the Maduro Regime. After Maduro stepped into power due to his predecessor’s death, opposition groups jumped into the streets to protest with illegitimacy. Maduro cracked down on dissenters. The United Nations Human Rights report indicated that the government has been responsible for suppressing opponents.
Marta Valiñas, a Portuguese jurist who was chairman of the U.N. Human Rights Council panel described that the actions taken by the government were “part of a policy to eliminate unwanted members of society under the cover of combating crime.” In December 2020, Venezuelans went to the polls once again. This time to elect the 167 members of the country’s unicameral National Assembly (AN), or parliament. For the last 15 years, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela has dominated parliament.
U.S. Actions Promoting Free Elections in Venezuela
On October 23, 2020, Senator Debbie Mucarsel-Powell introduced H.Res. 1202 in the House of Representatives. The bill denounces the Maduro regime’s efforts to hold fraudulent legislative elections and urges his government to meet conditions to ensure a free and transparent electoral process.
The text cites U.S. policies to support the people of Venezuela in “their aspiration” to hold democratic elections as stated in the Charter of the Organization of the American States. It also calls for accountability of the Maduro Regime and their violations of human rights and other forms of international law.
It is unclear what further actions the United States will take if free elections in Venezuela are not upheld. However, the President of Venezuela has made it clear that he is strongly opposed to taking orders from the United States.
– Miska Salemann