The United States Special Representative for Venezuela Elliot Abrams dismissed the notion that the ruling socialist regime could oversee free and fair elections as “laughable,” at a press briefing Tuesday.
Abrams said the only solution to the country’s crisis was for dictator Nicolás Maduro to step aside.
Abrams — appointed as Washington’s Special Representative to Venezuela in January to help oversee the Trump administration’s efforts to remove the Maduro regime from power — pointed to the regime’s rampant corruption, human rights violations, and total destruction of the country’s economy.
“Inside Venezuela, the Maduro regime continues to undermine democratic institutions, to carry out human rights abuses, and to engage in rampant and extremely widespread corruption,” said Abrams. “The Maduro regime continues to drive the economy into the ground. Even Russian and Chinese officials have expressed frustration with Maduro’s poor decisions. It’s very clear that Maduro is not capable of solving Venezuela’s many crises.”
Abrams went on to reference how the regime has stripped around 20 members of Venezuela’s National Assembly, the country’s last democratically elected lawmaking body, of their parliamentary immunity, arbitrarily detaining some and forcing others into exile.
“The last remaining democratic institution in Venezuela is the National Assembly, but now, 20 National Assembly deputies have been stripped of their immunity,” he said. “More than a dozen of them forced into exile; two have been arbitrarily detained. The regime is methodically working to destroy Venezuela’s democratically elected parliament.”
“This is one of the reasons why the notion that Maduro might remain president to preside over free elections and a transition to democracy is laughable,” he continued. “These attacks on the only remaining democratic institution in Venezuela are yet another proof that the Maduro regime cannot be trusted to organize free and fair elections.”
Nearly all of the recent elections in Venezuela have been rigged in favor of Maduro and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), including last year’s presidential election in which Maduro claimed victory despite record low turnout and rampant voter fraud.
During questions after the briefing, Abrams expressed skepticism about the viability of recent talks between the Maduro regime and President Juan Guaidó’s envoys in Norway, which ended without any agreement.
“I’m not skeptical about the talks; I’m skeptical about the regime,” he told reporters. “That is there have been previous rounds of negotiations, and the Maduro regime has used them for delay, just to gain time and also to try to divide the opposition. We are seeking, as Juan Guaido is, a peaceful resolution, and the negotiated solution would in many ways be the best solution.”
Since recognizing Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela in January, the U.S. has failed in its wider aim of removing the Maduro regime from power.
In April, Guaidó announced that some sections of the military had agreed to renounce Maduro and back him in instigating a transition to democracy, although the effort eventually fizzled out after high-ranking military generals stayed loyal to the Chavista regime.