Venezuela’s sham May 20 election will not save Maduro - it will only prolong his agony

The May 20 elections were called by the controversial National Constituent Assembly, a Maduro-government controlled organization that has effectively sidelined the opposition-controlled legislature.
The May 20 elections were called by the controversial National Constituent Assembly, a Maduro-government controlled organization that has effectively sidelined the opposition-controlled legislature. Getty Images

There are several scenarios after Venezuela’s sham May 20 elections staged by dictator Nicolás Maduro to re-elect himself for another six years, but most of them lead to the same conclusion: Maduro will proclaim himself the winner, and Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis will worsen.

The so-called election is a joke, and has been called that much by the United States, the European Union and all major Latin American countries.

The country’s most popular opposition candidates have been banned from running, there will be no credible international observers, and the electoral tribunal is controlled by the government. Virtually all Western democracies have by now said they will not recognize the election results.

Maduro is likely to pick one of three options after the May 20 vote:

Option 1 would be to declare an all-out Cubanization of Venezuela. Under this scenario, outlined to me in a recent interview by Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, the Venezuelan president will proclaim himself the winner on May 20, and shortly thereafter would change the constitution to impose a Cuban-style dictatorship.

The new Venezuelan constitution would adopt a Cuba-modeled electoral system that would only allow government supporters to participate in elections, and would brand government critics as “traitors to the fatherland,” subjecting them to long prison terms.

Option 2 would be to convene a bogus “government of national unity” with his hand-picked political rival, Henri Falcon. Under this scenario, Maduro would declare himself the winner of the May 20 vote, and immediately invite Falcon to join an alleged "government of national reconciliation" in hopes of winning some international recognition. Falcon, of course, is a bogus oppositionist.

Option 3 — the most unlikely — would be for Maduro to allow a Falcon victory, in the understanding that Maduro would remain the power behind the throne. That is what Russian President Vladimir Putin did when he allowed Dmitry Medvedev to become president of Russia in 2008.

Some analysts believe that Maduro may be able to get away with any of these three scenarios.

Despite the collapse of Venezuela’s oil production, oil prices are going up, and President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement may push them even higher, they say. And Latin America’s so-called Lima Group of countries committed to helping restore democracy in Venezuela will be seriously weakened after July 1 if leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wins the Mexican elections.

In addition, Maduro is benefitting from the mass exodus of 3 million Venezuelans in recent years. Like in Cuba before, the Venezuelan exodus is helping Maduro get rid of middle-class government critics, and leaves him with a mass of docile impoverished people at home who will be easy subjects of political control through government food handouts.

But despite all of these scenarios that are seemingly favorable to Maduro, the May 20 elections don’t give Maduro a way out of his crisis — they will only prolong his agony. I don’t see how he can maintain internal order amid a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis.

Venezuela’s inflation will reach nearly 14,000 this year, by far the highest in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund. The minimum wage has plummeted to $3.6 dollars a month — yes, you read well — in the black market rate that Venezuelans use for their daily purchases.

As weird as it sounds, Venezuela’s minimum wage is only good to buy two small cans of tuna a month. Comparatively, the respective minimum wages at the black market rate allow people to buy 93 cans of tuna in Colombia, 178 in Mexico, and 232 in Argentina, according to a recent BBC report.

To make things worse for Maduro, Venezuela’s oil production — which amounts to 90 percent of the country’s income — has collapsed to less than half of what was when Hugo Chavez took office nearly twenty years ago.

Unlike Cuba in the 1960’s, Maduro doesn’t have a former Soviet Union to bankroll him. China has reportedly already said it won’t extend its new grace periods on Venezuela’s debts.

After Sunday’s vote, Venezuela will continue sliding into chaos, until growing foreign pressures, a national rebellion, or a military move to restore constitutional order put an end to this nightmare.

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