“I want my country to move forward”: Venezuela votes thinking about sanctions or presidential

Venezuelan women wait to enter the polling stations.

Regional elections can serve as a new starting point for both President Nicolás Maduro, who is seeking the lifting of sanctions, and for the opposition, which returns to the electoral track with its sights set on a “transparent” presidential election in 2024

AFP

Doris León went to vote this Sunday accompanied by her neighbor Olga Viana in a Caracas neighborhood: the first is a Chavista, the other sympathizes with the opposition and participates again after years of electoral boycott and abstention calls from their leaders.

Regional elections, rather than electing governors and mayors, can serve as a new starting point for both President Nicolás Maduro, who is seeking the lifting of sanctions, and for the opposition, which returns to the electoral route with its sights set on an election. presidential “transparent” in 2024, although next year he has the option of a referendum to revoke the mandate of the head of state.

«I want my country to succeed, as she wants it to succeed. We are always going to seek a prosperous country for our children and our grandchildren, whether your candidate wins or mine wins, ”Viana told AFP.

The voting centers began to close at 6:00 p.m. (22.00 GMT), although the period is usually extended in those in which there are still voters waiting, and the results are announced well into the morning.

The president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Pedro Calzadilla, predicted “a very good turnout.” The voting centers in Caracas had lines, a very different image from the deserts in the two previous elections, the 2018 presidential and 2020 legislative elections, in which the opposition marginalized itself by denouncing “fraud” and called for abstention.

These elections, in which some 21 million of the 30 million inhabitants are called, also mark the return of international observers after more than a decade of absence. “It is already a victory for Venezuela,” Maduro celebrated after voting at a military installation in Caracas.

His power is not at risk with these elections. 23 governors and 335 mayors, as well as regional and municipal legislators, are elected from more than 70,000 candidates. The opposition returned to the fractured, weakened electoral path, and without unitary candidacies in most regions, and experts agree that Chavismo will win the majority of the positions.

The opposition refused to participate in the 2018 presidential election, in which Maduro was re-elected, and in the 2020 legislative elections, in which the ruling party regained Parliament. Both processes were widely rejected internationally, led by the United States and the EU. “Today is not an electoral party or a democratic party,” said leader Henrique Capriles, a two-time presidential candidate after voting. “Today is the reunion of the exercise of a right that would call in resistance.”

Daniel Rey, a 25-year-old doctor from San Cristóbal, in Táchira, on the border with Colombia, called precisely to vote “even if it is as a form of protest.” In the also border state Zulia, there was one death and two injured in a shooting “in the vicinity” of a voting center, according to a police report, although the Minister of the Interior quickly classified it as a “criminal act isolated to the electoral process.” .

The EU – which follows the voting with 130 observers already deployed in the country – had not been working on an election in Venezuela for 15 years, as the Venezuelan authorities opted for “accompaniment missions” from countries and organizations close to Chavismo. Panels of experts from the United Nations and the Carter Center were also installed for this election. “Everything is going smoothly,” the head of the European mission, Isabel Santos, told reporters during her visit to an electoral center in a popular area of ​​Caracas.

The EU is scheduled to present a preliminary report on Tuesday. Maduro, who has warned that the bloc cannot “give a verdict,” said this Sunday that the mission has “lived up to it.”

The return of the EU is, according to analysts, one of the president’s concessions in his quest to lift sanctions, which include a United States oil embargo; as well as a new directive of the electoral body with the presence of the opposition, although still dominated by Chavismo.

The opposition leader Juan Guaidó, recognized as interim president of Venezuela by dozens of countries, did not vote and has remained silent during the day. Guaidó advocated this week to “unify the fight” against Maduro after the votes and insisted on seeking an agreement in the negotiations undertaken by the government and the opposition in Mexico, paralyzed since the extradition to the United States of Colombian businessman Alex Saab, close to the Chavista ruler.

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