Caruzo: Take It from a Man Who Can’t Vote Freely – Don’t Take Your Elections for Granted

US President Donald Trump is displayed on a television screen at a restaurant in Caracas, Venezuela, on November 4, 2020, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Cristian Hernandez / AFP) (Photo by CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ/AFP via Getty Images

CARACAS, Venezuela – Presidential elections in the United States are quite the global event, with the power to paralyze news cycles across the globe as everyone waits to see who will sit in the White House for the next four years — even if nobody outside the U.S. votes in said elections.

Given all that has transpired between the socialist regime of Venezuela, led by Nicolás Maduro, and the Trump Administration over the past years, it goes without saying that our eyes are firmly on this election.

Your election was handled much differently than how we’re used to doing ours, and the Electoral College is still a mystery to many non-U.S. citizens. But, in many parts of the world, including Venezuela, they’re seen as a faint glimpse of that which some of us can now only dream of having: the ability to choose our leaders with freedom, to have your vote matter and mean something.

As of the time of writing this, the 2020 U.S. Presidential election is still up in the air, with rampant accusations of fraud in key states that are keeping everyone on edge over what’ll happen. Thankfully, there are trustworthy courts and legal resources that can be used to contest and solve any fraudulent results. Americans can also organize peaceful rallies to demand a fair vote count without worrying that, if the candidate they oppose wins, they may be out of a job, in jail, or worse — get their skull cracked by police in broad daylight, on video. We don’t have that here, not when the Socialist Party controls every step of the process, from the Electoral Council to our Supreme Court.

Unlike in the United States – where the Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulates elections and monitors candidate expenditures for fraud, but does not have the power to call federal races – Venezuela’s Electoral Council gets to pick the winners and losers of every election here. And the people running the Electoral Council are all socialists handpicked by Maduro.

I am a little over two months away from turning 33 years old. 25 elections have been held over the past 21 years of “Bolivarian Revolution” and it saddens me to say that I don’t have a single memory of any of them occurring without some sort of controversy, or devoid of any kind of fraudulent antics that have tainted its results.

The twenty-sixth election under Chavismo, if you can call them such, is slated to take place on the 6th of December. This time, it’ll be a parliamentary one to renew the National Assembly, currently under the control of the Venezuelan opposition. The opposition won a majority there in 2015, only two years into the Maduro regime, when he had yet to perfect the fraud machine. In response, Maduro unconstitutionally created a parallel legislature, the “National Constituent Assembly,” claiming its job was to write an entirely new constitution. This year, the fake legislature abruptly declared that it wouldn’t write a constitution at all and that its members would compete in a Maduro-controlled election process for the National Assembly’s seats.

This upcoming “exercise of democracy” is a mockery of the word “election.” It’s rigged to the core. Maduro hijacked opposition parties through the Supreme Court, which placed handpicked collaborationists in control of them, and banned non-socialist candidates and politicians. The regime packed the Assembly with new seats under the pretense of population growth – despite the fact that we’ve actually shrunk as a country due to the ongoing migrant crisis that has forced almost 5 million Venezuelan citizens to flee.

Our electoral system is a contradiction because, on one hand, we have superficial safeguards that don’t even exist in the United States, like the requirement of a valid identification to cast our votes. If you do not bring your ID card, you can’t vote – simple as that (you also can’t buy toilet paper, gasoline, or do nearly anything else without it). On paper, we also count with a highly praised, robust electoral infrastructure system run by Smartmatic, a company used in the United States (despite its alleged ties to George Soros’ Open Society Foundation). Smartmatic claims it makes the process as smooth and painless as possible, audit-friendly, and able to transmit results quite efficiently.

Under the surface, the safeguards do nothing. Smartmatic denounced that it had been compromised in 2017, something that greatly complements the rampant voter coercion that always takes place in each Venezuelan election to make sure that the regime counts with enough votes to create the victory scenario that they see fit, all under a shroud of pretend legitimacy. Following the departure of Smartmatic, Venezuela’s Electoral Council recently revealed a brand new electoral system controlled in its entirety by them. If you didn’t trust the previous system, then you’ll have a harder time trusting this one.

Another safeguard in place is that Venezuela’s electoral law forbids anyone from releasing or publishing polls a week before an election, and no one — including the media — is allowed to publish results until our Electoral Council does so. But the Council is run by chavistas, so, rather than protecting the integrity of the elections, this provision just creates yet another threat of prosecution for speech the government dislikes.

Constant sham elections is how the Chávez and Maduro’s regime is presented as legitimate by international leftist organizations and Marxist ideologues – that is one of the reasons that prompted the Socialist Party of Venezuela to reform our Civil Registry Law in 2009, granting the National Electoral Council the authority to create and oversee a new Civil Registry system. In other words, the chavistas who choose winners and losers also get to decide if you exist or not.

This, coupled with their handling of our Electoral Registry that has been denounced through the years as corrupt, lets them determine who gets to vote. All they need to generate a new person is to insert them in the Civil Registry so they get a Venezuelan ID card number.

Venezuela’s institutions have a long record under socialism of creating “legitimate” documentation for people that have no business having it. For example, while acquiring a passport for an actual Venezuelan citizen is a nightmare, Syrians, Lebanese, Iranians, and Iraqis with ties to Hezbollah have had much more luck, even if they never stepped foot on Venezuelan soil. According to a defecting head of the Office of Identification and Migration (Saime), at least 10,000 Middle Easterners with no ties to Venezuela have acquired official documentation – birth certificate, passports, etc – in exchange for bribes. There is no guarantee these people aren’t voting in December.

My mother’s death certificate bears the logo of the Electoral Council. For what it’s worth, she shows up as deceased if I search her ID number in the public electoral registry lookup, I can only hope that votes under her name haven’t been cast ever since she passed away.

I lost faith in our electoral system long ago. Free and fair elections are not something you get to do here. The last time I voted was in 2013. At the time, I was working abroad and, due to that, I was registered as an abroad voter, which, while a very minuscule group, is heavily anti-chavismo leaning.

A last-minute change by our Electoral Council made it so that absentee voting from abroad was not factored in the first “irreversible” trend result announcements, therefore suppressing them for all intents and purposes. That act, coupled with the socialist regime’s constant rigging of elections, coercion of public employees and recipients of beneficiary programs, and the fact that we don’t really have much of an alternative when it comes to political parties that aren’t shades of left and/or part of the Socialist International simply translates to hopelessness and a complete lack of motivation for voting.

The very dubious and shady 2013 election was Maduro’s first victory, an urgent presidential election that was called following the death of Hugo Chávez. Maduro won it by a very narrow margin.

Despite some initial calls to protest by then-candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, he lacked the conviction to contest them all the way through — the rest is history.

Since I never bothered to update my voting registry information following my return to Venezuela in 2013, I don’t get to participate in this upcoming parliamentary elections. Quite frankly, I’m fine with that – this is, after all, a rigged game where the only winning move is not to play. There are better ways to waste one’s time than in participating in sham elections.

I am not a political analyst, and neither am I the most educated or sharpest tool in the shed, but one thing I know for sure is that the socialist regime of Venezuela is rooting for a Biden victory not because they agree with him, but because during his tenure as Obama’s vice president, he, along with Obama, showed a very lax attitude towards Chávez, Maduro, and Castro. It was a period of time during which Chávez was able to freely spread his Revolution’s influence across the region — and his oil checkbook too; that much I could witness during my short tenure as a local staff at one of Venezuela’s smallest embassies.

Maduro is looking forward to that breathing room again. Case in point, Maduro henchman and TV host Diosdado Cabello’s statements of a “Bolivarian Breeze” that could reach the U.S. — mind you, this is a man with a $10 million bounty on his head.

I do not have the liberty of sharing my political views in an open and free manner here, whether it is about foreign elections or our own. To do so would be like painting a target on my forehead, so I tread very lightly in that regard because I do not have the protection of any political party or high-ranking figurehead to shield me from the regime’s authorities. At the end of the day, I simply am a regular man taking care of my disabled brother no matter what.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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