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Saturday, 20 April 2013

You can have any President you like so long as he's ours

Just as I feared, the dirty tricks in Venezuela have started. Even as Nicolas Maduro was being sworn in as the new President of the Bolivarian Republic (right), the opposition, with the clear backing of the White House, were still crying foul and refusing to accept the result.

It is clear that the fact that Nicolas Maduro's victory was narrower than expected  has given the opposition and the United States the excuse to destabilize the country.

No matter that the election result was clear, with about the same margin of victory as many elections in the US and Britain (which were never contested) the US government is now playing politics with the outcome, emboldening Venezuela's opposition by refusing to accept the results obviously intending to discredit Maduro's mandate.

Maduro's 1.8% winning margin is no smaller than the general elections in the UK of 1951, 1964, and 1974. In the US in 1960 John F. Kennedy, won by just 0.17% of popular vote. Nixon in 1968 also had a margin below Maduro's in Venezuela and Carter's victory in 1976 was just a fraction above.

Latin American governments, including Brazil and Argentina, Mexico and Colombia, have recognized Maduro as Venezuela's legitimate President. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR),  as well as regional trade bloc Mercosur have backed the outcome.

In Europe: France, Portugal and Spain have recognised President Maduro. The Spanish government's statement explained that "as all constitutional and legal procedures have been carried out, the Government of Spain respects the proclamation by the National Electoral Council of Nicolas Maduro as the elected President of Venezuela."

Yet US Secretary of State John Kerry has refused any recognition of the outcome, demanding a recount of all 15 million votes,  precisely the demand of Venezuela's losing  candidate, Henrique Capriles.

Kerry has questioned "the viability of that government," and has asked if there were "irregularities." This gives rise to the fear that the US is not going to recognise Maduro as President.

As I blogged before the election, even prior to the vote taking place, the US had made up its mind up about the result. US Assistant Secretary of State, Roberta Jackson, claimed that it would be "difficult" to have "open, fair and transparent elections" in Venezuela.

This is quite simply rubbish. The US government has no better information than the Latin American or European governments who have accepted the results.

This is yet another attempt to undermine a democratic government of the left in Latin America as it has done previously in Paraguay and Honduras. Unsuprisingly, Brazil's former president Lula has criticized the US's approach.

The latest cable released by Wikileaks about Venezuela sheds light on the US's real intentions. The cable reveals a plan from former US Ambassador Brownfield to destabilize Hugo Chavez' government at the 2006 Presidential election. A core aim was "isolating Chavez internationally". It is clearly now Nicolas Maduro who is being targetted.

The US government is stirring up trouble in Venezuela. Not only does this heighten the risk of  violence, it also undermines Venezuela's democracy, which, like all democarcies, requires all parties to accept fair results, whether they win or lose.

Henry Ford used to say of his Model Ts: "You can have any colour you like as long as it's black." The US government is saying the same to the Venezuelans: "You can have any result you like so long as it's one we agree with!"

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