SOA Watch News & Updates

Send a Message to Secretary of State John Kerry
Respect Venezuela’s Democracy and Sovereignty!Today, representatives of 47 countries will be present in Venezuela at the swearing-in ceremony for their president-elect Nicolas Maduro. One nation will be glaringly missing: the United States. The refusal of the US to recognize the winner of last Sunday’s election is damaging our own nation. Please click here to send a message to Secretary of State John Kerry to demand that the U.S. respect Venezuela’s electoral process and stop intervening in Venezuela’s democracy.The United States is once again standing alone on the wrong side of history. Following the coup of the democratically-elected government of Manuel Zelaya of Honduras on June 28, 2009, the United States’ silence was the veritable elephant in the room. As governments across the world condemned the coup, the US stood alone in its quixotic “defense of democracy.” The blood shed since has exposed the cost of that silence.

An electoral observation delegation sponsored by SOA WATCH and MITF (Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas) recently returned from Venezuela and verified the credibility and efficiency of their electoral system, as confirmed by electoral observers from around the world. We were all struck by the integrity of their voting system – its transparency and incredible system of checks and balances, including paper receipts and a built-in system of 54% auditing comparing those receipts against the electronic results. Jimmy Carter said it is the best voting system in the world.

The election was very close: Interim presidet Nicolas Maduro gathered 50.66% of the votes compared to 49.07% of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles (A 1.6% margin). But the vote was not as close as the Kennedy-Nixon election (with a mere 0.1% margin) or the Bush – Gore election (where Gore actually won the popular vote by a 0.5% margin) and was comparable to the Kerry – Bush election (a 2.4% margin). Venezuelans voted massively – over 78% of them. The US has not seen that many voters at its polls for a presidential election since 1898. The 2012 elections had a 57.5% turnout. More strikingly, 95% of eligible voters in Venezuela are registered to vote, while in the US, a mere 61.1% are registered.

Rather than congratulate the Venezuelan people for their outstanding expression of democracy, the US has taken the low road, backing the demands and behavior of Capriles, their candidate of choice. Within minutes of the announced results, Capriles took to the Venezuelan air waves to give an enraged discourse. He refused to accept the results, demanded a full recount, called Maduro illegitimate, and asked his followers to take to the streets to protest. Twenty four hours later, 8 people were dead, most of them supporters of Maduro, and over 60 injured. Eight health clinics staffed by Cuban doctors and three food stores were among dozens of public service buildings that were attacked by hoards of Capriles followers.

In the wake of this tragedy, a segment of serious opposition followers began to pull away , and international opinion began to question the democratic credentials of Capriles, who was linked to an attack on the Cuban embassy shortly after the US-sponsored coup of 2002. In an effort to save face, Capriles called off a march scheduled for Thursday and accepted the suggestion of Venezuela’s Attorney General to file his complaint in a legal manner as outlined by the constitution.

Venezuela’s independent National Electoral Board agreed yesterday to audit the remaining 46% of the votes that were not audited in the first round, bringing the audit to 100% of the votes. Spokespersons for the Maduro government expressed satisfaction with this decision, as did the Capriles campaign.

Last night the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) issued an official declaration endorsing Maduro as the legitimate president of the country and congratulating him on his electoral victory. In spite of these new developments, the U.S. fails to recognize Maduro as president in contrast to world leaders gathering at this moment to witness the swearing-in ceremony.

When will our government just take a seat on Latin America’s bus of sovereignty and democracy, rather than burn its tires or subvert the route? Ask your government leaders that it begin today.