President Nicolás Maduro was confirmed for his second term in Venezuela’s May 20th presidential election, spurring international speculation over the election’s credibility. Venezuela has been in a state of emergency since 2016 due to an economic, political and humanitarian crisis, which has been largely attributed to Maduro’s accumulation of power both by the State Department and international rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Various demonstrations took place during Maduro’s first term as president. The Atlantic reported anti-government demonstrations beginning on April 1, 2017 had left 66 people dead by June of the same year.
According to Al Jazeera, the recent election marked the lowest voter turnout in three decades, even though polling stations were kept open past the 6pm closing time. Forty-six percent of the population cast their ballots, compared to 80 percent in the 2013 presidential elections. President Maduro obtained 5.8 million of the votes while his main opponent Henri Falcón received 1.8 million. Falcón denounced the outcome of the election, stating, “We do not recognise this electoral process as valid. There must be new elections in Venezuela.”
Reuters reported part of Falcón’s dissatisfaction rested with “red points”, pro-government stands which were covered by red canopies. According to electoral regulations, biased partisan information must be at least 200 meters from a polling station. Around 13,000 of these red points were set up near polling stations across Venezuela, some of which were as close as five meters.
South China Morning Post reported people stationed at red points offered government handouts in exchange for votes, and Maduro himself promised unspecified prizes if those who possessed the electronic identity card necessary to access government coupons voted. According to The New York Times, nine tenths of people in Venezuela are unable to afford basic necessities such as food and medicine. Venezuela’s annual inflation rate surpassed 4,000 percent between January 2017 and January 2018, Reuters reported.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera stated he would not recognize the elections as they did not represent the democratic will of Venezuela while President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla recalled ambassadors from the country. According to the EU media outlet EURACTIV, all 28 ministers to the EU approved sanctions against the country begin in June in response to the election.
“I suspect that this situation won’t be resolved within the country,” said National Autonomous University of Mexico professor Javier Buenrostro, as quoted by Al Jazeera. “It’s more likely to be resolved as a humanitarian crisis, and outside Venezuela with international actors.”