Reports of Violence at Voting Sites Amid Ongoing Venezuelan Primaries

Reports of Violence at Voting Sites Amid Ongoing Venezuelan Primaries


Reports of armed groups preventing the installation of polling sites, the sabotage of polling sites, as well as violence against those at polling stations has led to concern regarding Venezuela’s first opposition presidential primary in over 10 years which was held on Sunday.

The primaries come after a deal between the Venezuelan government and the opposition was brokered in Barbados by Norway on Tuesday, which states both sides may choose their candidates according to their own internal rules. The negotiations were organized with a promise by the US to relieve sanctions placed on Venezuela since 2017. However, in order for any relief to take place, the current Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, must first commit to an election date and lift bans on opposition candidates.

Nicolas Maduro (Photo – People’s Dispatch)

The date of the presidential election is not yet set; however, officials state it will be held in the latter half of next year. Officials from foreign observers, most notably from the European Union and United Nations, will oversee the vote in order to ensure the validity of the presidential election.

Concern has also risen over the banning of the opposition’s frontrunner, Maria Corina Machado, from holding office following her support for US sanctions and support for former opposition leader Juan Guaido. It is uncertain what will happen if Machado wins the primaries due to her ban; however, Machado has said that if she were to win the primary, she could pressure the electoral council to let her register for the general election.

A String of Bans:

Politicians found guilty of corruption are barred from holding public office for 15 years in Venezuela. However, the opposition has claimed the government has abused this power to control who can and cannot run for the presidency following the barring of three opposition candidates, including Machado.

Opposition frontrunner Maria Machado (Photo – Vente Nueva Esparta)

Hope for those barred from running came alongside negotiations between the government and the opposition on Tuesday; however, no settlement was reached regarding bans.

“If you have an administrative inhabilitation…from the controller general of the republic, you cannot be a candidate; I want to clarify that,” Jorge Rodriguez, the head of the government delegation, told a press conference after the negotiations.

Violence at the Polls:

A string of violence has struck the Capital District of Venezuela amid the primary elections.

In the Guarataro neighborhood, residents have reported gangs of armed men roaming the streets, preventing polling stations from being installed in the area. Shootings in the neighborhood have also been reported as voters attempt to reach polls in the area.

In the Candelaria neighborhood one elderly voter was run over with a car while waiting in the polling line.

Further reports state that tear gas has been utilized at one polling center in the capital at around 2 p.m. local time.

Despite these reports, Jesus Casal, the President of the National Primary Assembly, the governing body overseeing the primaries, assured the media that “citizens are voting in peace.”

Reports of Sabotage:

Violence is not the only reported offense against voters, as those heading to the polls in the San Bernardino neighborhood located within the capital were barred from voting after officials found booths locked with “school locks and crazy glue.”

“4 thousand people came to vote. As of 10 a.m., 507 people have voted,” one voter stated on Twitter, the social media platform previously known as X.

(Photo – Robert Lobo, X)

In Maturín, the state capital of Venezuela’s Monagas state, voters reported the power being cut at a voting station, delaying attempts to submit their votes.

Despite reported violence and sabotage, Bower Rosas, the coordinator of the Vente Nueva Esparta movement, a pro-democratic movement that disavows socialism, assured the media that measures were undertaken in order to ensure a fair election.

“We are demonstrating to the citizens that we are working towards electing a suitable person who can lead the destiny of the country,” Rosas told Reporte Confidencial. “We knew what could happen today, and that’s why we already had plan B, and plan B is already working.”

A Statement from the National Primary Assembly:

The National Primary Assembly, the governing body overseeing the primaries, released a statement clarifying that foreign polling stations “are not authorized to make official announcements concerning the primary election.”

“The polling stations abroad will carry out the counting and send the corresponding minutes to the National Primary Commission for the totalization of the votes and the announcement of the results.” They said in a statement, “Any information from the media about voting results abroad that does not come from the National Primary Commission has no official character.”

Trent Barr
Trent Barr
Trent Barr is the Latin America Desk Chief for Atlas News. He has years of experience and is trained in open source intelligence gathering. Trent Barr specializes in Latin American, German, and Vatican affairs while also holding an interest in Europe as a whole.
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