|Maduro celebrates his election victory alongsie Maradona.|
And yet the president, who is notoriously corrupt and lives high while his people suffer, got reelected by a landslide.
Does anybody at all believe that Sunday's presidential election results in Venezuela were fair and democratic?
Venezuelan president/dictator Nicolas Maduro and his crowd may have read the recent and interesting book 'How to Rig an Election,' by two British academics. The book observes that old fashioned ballot box stuffing is now passé. Instead, today's authoritarian leaders stack the deck in their own favor before a single vote gets cast, thru techniques such as registering more voters in regions where they are popular and setting up more voting stations in those same areas.
In Venezuela, the government started preparing for the election many months ago by imprisoning or banning from public office the opposition's strongest potential candidates. Maduro also linked the reception of food aid - vital in a starving nation - to allegiance to Maduro. Whether or not the government really knew which candidate voters supported didn't matter: It was the impression that counted.
That was also why the government set up red tents outside of voting stations - sometimes so close that they violated election rules - for government loyalists to check in after voting. The message was clear: 'We're rewarding you for voting for us.' Government offices also required public employees to attend pro-Maduro rallies.
These were all crude attempts to harness the still-great public resources of the nation with the world's largest oil reserves in favor of Maduro.
The government might not even have needed to manipulate the vote counts, but it probably did, anyway. After all, many election observers said that the electoral commission's reported 47% voter turnout seemed wildly exaggerated in light of the many near-vacant voting stations. After a previous election, the voting machine company, Smartmatic, charged that
Maduro has good reason to hold on to power. (His new term ends in 2025.) He and his buddies are living high while his people suffer. And, if he were to be overthrown, his enemies would surely try to prosecute Maduro for corruption and human rights violations, forcing him to take refuge with few remaining friends, in Cuba, Syria or Russia.
Instead, Venezuela will sink into even deeper misery. And hundreds of thousands or millions more Venezuelans will flood into neighboring nations. And Venezuela will lose a generation of its brightest, most motivated people.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours