US Urges Free Elections in Venezuela Ahead of Jan 5 Poll

As Venezuelans head to the polls next month, top U.S. officials are pressing for free elections for the National Assembly and the presidency, saying the vote is crucial to the country emerging from its deep political crisis.

U.S. officials also are urging authorities to “unconditionally release” all persons being detained for political reasons.

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro’s 2018 reelection is considered to be illegitimate by many nations in the Western Hemisphere. The United States and more than 50 other countries now recognize National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.

On Jan. 5, the Venezuelan National Assembly will vote on its president for 2020. Guaido is seeking reelection, a year after declaring himself to be the country’s interim leader.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognised as the country's rightful interim ruler gestures as…
FILE – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognized as the country’s rightful interim ruler, gestures as he speaks during an extraordinary session of Venezuela’s National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 17, 2019.

U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams sounded hopeful Friday that opposition leader Guaido will win.

“I think that at least as of now, he has the votes to be reelected,” said Abrams during a press briefing at the State Department.

Allegations of bribery

The U.S. envoy said the Maduro government is “using a combination of threats, arrests and bribes up to 500,000 dollars per vote” to stop the reelection but “it’s not widespread enough to change the outcome.”

U.S. officials took note that Russia and China, Maduro’s major supporters, have not offered any investment or loans to Venezuela in the last six months.

“I think it’s striking that they don’t seem to be willing to give him another dime because they know it will be stolen or wasted. I think they know the regime is going to go,” said Abrams.

A recent U.N. report painted a grim picture of Venezuela as a dysfunctional society. Citing data, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said thousands of people continue to flee the country as its political, economic and human rights crises deepen.

Venezuela’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Jorge Valero, disputed the report’s findings, saying there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.