Latin America

Venezuela’s US-backed opposition figure faces major defeat in polls

Venezuela’s US-backed opposition figure and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido has called for boycott of the country’s upcoming legislative polls as critics insist the move will further cement President Nicolas Maduro’s leadership.

Venezuelans will head to the polls on Sunday in parliamentary elections as Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party and its allies are reportedly running virtually unchallenged nearly eight years into a crippling US-led economic crisis.

Expressing confidence about a major victory in the polls, Maduro vowed during an election rally earlier this week that “we are going to solve the problems we have with the new National Assembly,” insisting that “the opposition, the extremist right, has no plan for the country.”

“I know that we are going to have a great triumph. I know it!” the Venezuelan president said about the polls, in which his 30-year-old son also runs for a seat.

The anticipated defeat of the opposition candidates in Sunday’s elections will seriously undermine the US-sponsored forces in the country even though Guaido is currently recognized as Venezuela’s “interim president” by nearly 50 countries allied with Washington.

his is while the self-declared interim president and his associates plan a week-long referendum from Monday in his bid to win public support to extend the mandate of the current Guaido-led National Assembly.

However, initial opposition enthusiasm for the upcoming polls has diminished as Guaido’s critics regard his referendum ploy as a desperate gamble.

This is while an election victory on Sunday will provide Maduro with significant validation in the eyes of his foreign allies, helping his administration to further circumvent brutal US and EU sanctions against Venezuela, according to Luis Vicente Leon, director of pollsters Datanalisis. 

“He is not looking at the United States, or Europe, to recognize him (…). He wants China to feel there’s an institutional framework that can provide backing for agreements such as those on oil or infrastructure,” Leon said, noting that other allies such as Russia, India, Mexico and Turkey will feel similarly reassured.

Leon emphasized that some European allies were also becoming increasingly concerned about offering Guaido “carte blanche” for an interim role “ad infinitum,” saying, “They feel that recognition, without elections, without validation, is like naming an emperor.”

He said that the opposition is already divided over the wisdom of a boycott demanded by Guaido, adding, “You are offering an abstention that leads absolutely nowhere else than the same place you are already in. The only thing you manage to preserve is an interim government that’s symbolic.”

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s electoral authority, appointed by the country’s Supreme Court, said more than 20 million people are eligible to vote in the elections.

Opposition dissidents who criticize Guaido for calling the boycott will take part in the election, despite being accused of affording Maduro legitimacy. 

Analysts say that the Guaido-led opposition lacks direction and has stumbled by putting too much emphasis on its pursuit of international support. 

“It will be a war of perception,” said Felix Seijas of the Washington-based analysts Delphos. The opposition is counting on a low turnout to undermine Maduro, who needs to show the tide of public opinion has turned away from Guaido.

Guaido has called for increased sanctions from the US and EU, even though a Datanalisis poll showed 71 percent of Venezuelans oppose more crippling sanctions.

Countries aligned with Guaido will reject the result, Seijas added. “But how forcefully? If the rejection is not forceful, opposition morale will plummet even further.”

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