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Do the Venezuelan Elections On The 28th Of July 2024 Leave Any Hope For Democracy To Win?

In the year 2024, around half of the world´s population has been called to vote. In Latin America six countries are holding elections, and among them, Venezuela. 

The date has already been decided which is the 28th of July. Venezuelan citizens will vote on whether they want Nicolás Maduro to continue in power, or if they would rather put an end to his 10-year mandate and make a drastic turn in this country´s history and vote for Machado. But, will they be given the chance to choose who they want to be their president, or will Maduro speed up the process and decide for them? 

Going back in time 

In the 1970s, during the government of Andrés Pérez, the so-called "Saudi Venezuela" took place: an oil boom that allowed Venezuela to increase its public investment and improve its infrastructure. However, by 1980, this period of economic development came to an end, and in 1989 Perez developed the economic plan known as “el Paquetazo Económico" which marked a drastic change in his economic policy; privatization of companies, increase in the price of oil (main resource and source of wealth of the country) and of many food products, as well as an important liberalization. The evident disgruntling of the population was materialized in huge demonstrations, to which the military forces responded with brutal repression, giving rise to the historic massacre known as "El Caracazo". The anger, rejection, and resentment of the population towards CAP (Carlos Andres Perez) led to the victory of Chavez in 1999, who had already gained fame after the failed coup d'état in 1992 against Perez. 

The death of Hugo Chavez gave room to the election of Maduro as president of Venezuela in 2013, which brought about the drastic worsening of the economy. It was in 2017, that the hyperinflation cycle started, leading to an unstoppable increase in prices that achieved its peak in 2018 with a rate of 130.060% and a real GDP growth of 15.7%, according to the IMF. This period of hyperinflation culminated in 2020, however, Venezuela still presents the highest levels of inflation in the world (200% according to IMF). 

The government of Maduro 

After the death of Chavez in 2013, Nicolás Maduro was elected as the new president, consequently. Four years later, in 2017, elections were held again, however, this time its legitimacy was questioned by the international community. Although Maduro declared himself the winner of the elections, the opposition strongly rejected his statement and claimed the results presented by the CNE (“Consejo Nacional Electoral”, the National Electoral Council) to be false. They reported a lack of transparency and credibility as well as a violation of electoral laws and called upon Venezuela´s citizens to demonstrate against such injustice. 

The European Union did not turn a blind eye and decided to act upon the clear violation of democratic values. Some of the support was shown in the form of sanctions to bring about change and enhance democratic solutions. Not only did the EU confront Maduro, but also the United States joined the imposition of sanctions in 2019, by targeting its main source of income, oil. However, it is clear that this did not prevent him from staying in power, his strong, well-established alliance with Cuba, China, and Russia, has contributed to keeping him in power and being a candidate for this year's elections. 

The exile of most of this country´s population is not a surprising phenomenon. Around 8 million Venezuelans have left the country with the hopes of finding a better life. These numbers have done nothing but increase since the arrival to power of Chavez, when only 300,000 citizens had emigrated. There is no freedom of the press and all communication platforms are been shut down, which was already happening with Chavez, who decided to put an end to the emblematic TV channel Radio Caracas TV. It seems that Maduro is no different to Chavez, he could even be seen as his continuation. 

But, what now? 

Hopes for democratic elections blossomed with the apparent implementation of theThe Partial Agreement on the Promotion of Political Rights and Electoral Guarantees for All”, also known as the Barbados Agreement, signed last year between Maduro's government and Venezuela's political opposition “Plataforma Unitaria Democrática”. It was a hopeful attempt to bring democracy to the table by encouraging dialogue and negotiations between the current government of Maduro and the opposition. With the upcoming elections, this agreement aimed to ensure the first free and fair elections in years. 

As exposed in the document signed by both parties, they are “Committed to strengthening an inclusive democracy and a culture of tolerance and political coexistence”, and “recognize and respect the right of each political actor to choose their candidate for the presidential elections freely and by their internal mechanisms, taking into account the provisions of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the law”. 

This could lead us to wonder whether this year´s elections could end up being any different from how Venezuela´s politics have behaved until now, or whether we would get a hopeful answer to our question.

This year´s election opposition is led by Maria Corina Machado, leader of “Plataforma Unitaria Democrática”. The population showed its support in the primary elections in which there was a massive mobilization of all Venezuelan citizens, leading to Machado's victory with 90% of the votes in her favour. Several surveys have been carried out that have ended up proving the clear advantage that Machado has over Maduro.


It seemed that dialogue and consensus had convinced Maduro to hold democratic elections, such intentions were materialized through the implementation of the Barbados Agreement, in response to which, Joe Biden was willing to alleviate sanctions on Venezuela. However, hopes vanished in the blink of an eye, when the Venezuelan government launched a campaign to arrest the opposition and even the citizens. 


The latest news reported the arrest of Machado´s aide, Emil Brandt Ulloa, who had been accused of being involved in a “violent” and “terrorist” conspiracy against the government of Maduro. Three other regional campaign leaders had already been arrested, and the Venezuelan Supreme Court upheld a 15-year ban on Machado which disqualified her from running as a candidate. 


Given Maduro's lack of cooperation, the United States has reimposed sanctions, reversing the very brief progress that the Barbados agreement had brought.


Leyre Ojer 


Edited By: Adrita Barua


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