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Saturday, 27 April 2013

Venezuela in danger

Henrique Capriles, the defeated opposition candidate in the Venezuelan presidential elections, is persisting with his challenge to the results and has now withdrawn from the audit of ballots to which he had agreed just a few days ago. His actions, as the cartoon image (right) suggests, are in danger of setting Venezuela aflame.

With the arrest of a US citizen suspected of inciting violence and destablizing the country, the matter becoming very serious and the situation is one in which Washington has a big responsibility. Without the support of Washington, it is impossible to imagine that Capriles would have sided with the hard-line elements within his coalition and called the elections fraudulent. It is also the first time ever that Washington has refused to recognise the result of a Venezuelan election and it flies in the face of the facts and the opinion of the rest of the world. 

Among Washington's allies, Spain, France and the UK have all recognised Maduro as the Venezuelan president. Within the region, after Maduro's victory, Unasur, the association of South American countries, held an emergency meeting in Lima and agreed to accept the result. Most Unasur member countries sent their presidents to Maduro’s inauguration. The issue is therefore now turning into a struggle between the US and the increasingly confident alliance of South American nations.

Many international observers, including the UN and the Organisation of American States, the OAS, agreed that, despite a few blips, the elections had been fair. Venezuela has an electronic voting system, one of the most advanced in Latin America. My fellow academic Julia Buxton, a seasoned international observer, was in Venezuela, spent election day at a polling station in Barinas and gives a vivid account for the UK's Latin American Bureau of what she saw (Read More).

The United States has shown a very aggressive approach towards Hugo Chávez’s successor and this hostility has been particularly intense in the mainstream US media, which portrays his victory as some kind of “sinister plot”. Larry Birns and Frederick B. Mills, from the US-based think-tank Council of Hemispheric Affairs, report that The Washington Post accused Maduro of ‘killing his way into power.’ The White House, they argue, seems to be more prepared to cater to the rightist predilections of some hard-line members of the U.S. Congress, rather than hammer out a coherent post-Cold War policy for the Americas (Read More).

It is really time for the US to man up and accept that they just can't push the countries of Latin American around any more. The consequences of failing to do so could be dire indeed.

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