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Venezuela’s Illegitimate President

9:31 AM, Apr 23, 2013 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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In the real world, it was Maduro, not Capriles, whose actions pushed Venezuela into post-election protests and violence. There have already been several deaths and dozens of injuries. Capriles has called for peace, and he even canceled a protest march scheduled for April 17, after learning of government plans to incite violence. He understands that Maduro’s goal “is to try to get the country into a situation of confrontation and violence,” so that the regime has a pretext for intensifying repression.

To its credit, the Obama administration swiftly called for a recount in Venezuela, and it has (thus far) refused to recognize Maduro’s dubious victory. Maduro has responded in typical chavista fashion: “The U.S. intervention in Venezuelan internal affairs in recent months, and particularly during the election campaign, has been brutal, vulgar,” he said on April 17. “Its direct coordination with the ‘yellow bourgeois,’ with the oligarchs, has been truly obscene.” Maduro also included a message for the U.S. secretary of state: “Take your eyes off Venezuela, John Kerry! Get out of here!”

Like Chávez, Maduro is fond of slamming the “imperialist” United States (“the empire”) for disrespecting Venezuela. But it wasn’t just Washington that called for an election recount—the Organization of American States did, too, and the European Union said that a recount should be “duly considered by the competent Venezuelan authorities.” (Shamefully, the Spanish government withdrew its initial call for a recount after Maduro issued thinly veiled threats against Spanish investments in Venezuela.)

At a time when Venezuela already has the world’s second-highest murder rate, a sky-high inflation rate that could hit 30 percent this year, crumbling infrastructure, frequent blackouts, chronic food shortages, tensions within the armed forces, tens of thousands of pro-Chávez militia fighters armed with Russian weapons, and untold numbers of Cuban officials working in key institutions (including the military and the secret police), the country cannot afford a prolonged election crisis. Unfortunately, Caracas has defiantly resisted both domestic and foreign pressure for a manual recount.

Indeed, on April 17, the chief justice of Venezuela’s chavista­-controlled supreme court said that a manual recount would not be possible. That same day, Maduro agreed to an electronic audit. But this “compromise” is much less significant than it sounds. While the full audit will probably take about a month, the national electoral council—known by its Spanish acronym, CNE—has already made it clear that opposition members should not expect the election results to be overturned. “We will not let something that aims to verify whether the system worked be turned into a sort of public impeachment that tries to question the results,” a CNE official said on April 20. “As always, when the CNE announces results to the country, it is because they are irreversible.”

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