Venezuelans go to polls this month amid fears of election rigging

Latin America

Supporters of Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcon attend a campaign rally in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, on May 2, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Luis ROBAYO)

Voters in Venezuela will have to decide whether to keep the current president, or pick a new one.

President Nicolas Maduro is seeking reelection this month, but faces a tough road ahead as he manages the country’s economic crisis.

Meanwhile, rumors of election rigging have people calling for a boycott.

CGTN’s Juan Carlos Lamas reports from Caracas.

Venezuela’s main opposition parties have had problems gathering more than a few dozen people to take to the streets. Those who do show up said that none of the leading opposition candidates speak for them because they’ve been banned from running for office.

A woman holds a sample of an electoral ballot during a preparatory rehearsal for the upcoming May 20 presidential election, on May 6, 2018, in Caracas, Venezuela. (AFP PHOTO / Luis ROBAYO)

“It is an electoral fraud, the one taking place on May 20,” said Luisangela Correa, a supporter of the Democratic Unity Roundtable party.

“We don’t have a transparent or reliable electoral council and to make things worse, there are no opposition candidates registered in this election.”

This opposition coalition has held meetings in neighborhoods across the country, asking Venezuelans to boycott the election and telling people it’s better not to vote.

“Venezuelans won’t have the right to choose because the government has eliminated its rivals. Three million Venezuelans who live abroad won’t have the right to vote, and those who will vote, are being blackmailed,” said Alejandro Vivas, a supporter of the Justice First party.

“They’re afraid to lose the government’s subsidized food program.”

President Nicolas Maduro took office in 2013, after the death of Hugo Chavez. He’s been widely blamed for Venezuela’s economic crisis. But as difficult as life has been in the last five years, many of Maduro’s supporters have said last year’s street protests pushed them even more firmly to his side.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a May Day rally in Caracas, on May 1, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Federico PARRA)

“If the Venezuelan opposition was interested a bit more in politics, they would have a chance, but they focus on destroying everything with their protests,” expressed Josefina Rojas, a United Socialist Party of Venezuela supporter.

Maduro’s main challenger is Henri Falcon, a former military man who broke with the socialists in 2010. But neither he or any of the other candidates have the support of the opposition coalition.

Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcon speaks to supporters during a campaign rally in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, on May 2, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Luis ROBAYO)

“It’s a coalition which takes terrible political decisions. Last year in the midst of anti-government protests, they had the support of millions of Venezuelans, but they did not know what to do with it. Now, they lack leadership in a time when it’s needed more,” explained political analyst Oswaldo Ramirez.

But the opposition may succeed in convincing the people who are already apathetic that it’s better to stay home than to go to the polls. As basic items including food, water and medicine remain in short supply, and the opposition will continue to call people to take to the streets.