Brazil Should Stand Firm Against U.S.-Led Campaign to Undermine Venezuelan Elections

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Brazil Should Stand Firm Against U.S.-Led Campaign to Undermine Venezuelan Elections

Supporters of late Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez take part in a campaign rally Nov. 28, 2015, held by pro-government candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections, in Caracas. Venezuela will hold parliamentary elections on Dec. 6. (Photo: Reuters)

Washington has been trying to get rid of the Venezuelan government for more than 13 years, going back to the failed military coup of 2002. The U.S. State Department acknowledged that Washington “provided training, institution building, and other support to individuals and organizations understood to be actively involved” in the coup. They stepped up funding to opposition groups after the coup government collapsed. Since 2004, the U.S. has also supported regime change by electoral means, but the Venezuelan opposition has never been able to win a national election.

Now Washington’s hopes are high for the Venezuela’s National Assembly elections on December 6, with the economy in recession, and grappling with shortages and high inflation. As usual, the U.S. government and its allies — in the media , NGOs, and even U.S. law enforcement agencies — have been campaigning vigorously.

But there is something even more sinister going on here. While the Venezuelan opposition is leading in national polls, it very likely will not do as well in winning Assembly seats as these polls would indicate. That is mainly because Venezuela’s single-chamber legislature gives more than proportional representation to smaller states. It is not so disproportional as in the U.S. or Brazilian system, with their separate Senate chambers, but it is significant. Also, the governing party (PSUV) has millions of members and a record of getting their voters to the polls, while the opposition has nothing comparable.

Since the media is focusing on the national polls, the stage is set for the Venezuelan opposition to claim fraud, as they did in the 2013 presidential elections. In 2013, the opposition took to the streets with violent demonstrations, and Washington supported them by refusing to recognize the results. There was absolutely no doubt about the results — Venezuela has one of the most fraud-proof voting systems ever invented, which former U.S. President and election expert Jimmy Carter called “the best in the world.”

In 2013, it was the intervention of South America that forced Washington and its only two allies, Jose Miguel Insulza (the Secretary General of the OAS) and the right-wing Popular Party of Spain, to back down and join the rest of the world in recognizing the results. Lula in particular made unusually strong public criticisms of Washington for supporting this destabilization effort.

Even if the opposition wins a simple majority in the Assembly, they may still claim fraud if they don’t reach the two-thirds majority that would give them much more power. The current U.S.-led international campaign has dangerously focused not only on de-legitimizing the government of Venezuela, but also its elections. This effort has been joined by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, who published an 18-page letter trashing Venezuela ahead of the elections. He was strongly denounced for his actions by Uruguayan ex-President Pepe Mujica, whom Almagro had served as foreign minister until March of this year. And now the election of Mauricio Macri — a politician who had previously appealedto U.S. officials to help him fight against his own government — as president of Argentina has given the U.S. another ally in its campaign.

The Brazilian government should stand firm, as it did in 2013, against this sordid attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Venezuela’s elections. And Almagro has clearly violated his mandate as Secretary General of the OAS by actively campaigning against a member country. He should resign.

The original version of this article, published in Portuguese, first appeared in Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest circulation newspaper, on December 3. 

Mark Weisbrot

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis. E-mail Mark: weisbrot@cepr.net

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