It is telling that since the night of the election the CNE has stripped all precinct-level reporting from its website. However, the opposition’s monitors collected tally sheets from at least 60 percent of the voting centers, including some that show a 15-30 percent drop in turnout in Chavista bastions since last October’s election. Reports that opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski won in some of the poorest neighborhoods of the country suggest that Maduro was defeated soundly.
The CNE was quick to reject Capriles Radonski’s demand that the paper ballots be counted. Uniformed military began to burn election materials and to shoot and bludgeon peaceful protesters. The president of the National Assembly silenced opposition members and rushed to swear in Maduro.
In the days after the vote, Capriles Radonski abruptly cancelled an opposition rally because he was told that the Chavistas would sow agent provocateurs to incite confrontations as a pretext for repression.
Building on a strong campaign performance, Capriles Radonski’s cool-headed management of the post-election crisis contrasts sharply with Maduro’s polarizing rhetoric and violent repression. As evidence of fraud and Cuban interference is made public, Maduro’s illegitimacy and incompetence may make it impossible for him to manage the country’s myriad economic and security problems.
Even Chavistas — many of whom already are offended by Havana’s heavy-handed role in managing the post-Chávez succession — may look to Capriles Radonski as the man Venezuelans chose to save the country.
Roger F. Noriega, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, served as assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs and as ambassador to the Organization of American States in the administration of President George W. Bush.