Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday accused President Donald Trump of attempting to “sabotage” upcoming legislative elections, which Maduro convened for December despite not legally being president of Venezuela for over a year.
According to Maduro, ongoing attempts by former presidential candidate and opposition personality Henrique Capriles Radonski to persuade the country to participate in elections — which Capriles bizarrely walked back on in an interview on Tuesday — are part of a plan coordinated by Trump himself to delay them for political gain.
“The government of Donald Trump gave the order to sabotage the parliamentary elections in Venezuela, but it seems that, step by step, another national, sovereign opposition is emerging,” Maduro said during a military award ceremony on Tuesday, without providing any evidence for the claim.
“Capriles and his buddy [President Juan] Guaidó personalize everything, but they do not realize that it is not Maduro, it is the people. He wants to sabotage the elections,” he explained. “Capriles understands this, given the people have defeated him twice.”
Capriles lost the 2012 presidential election, widely considered neither free nor fair, to dictator Hugo Chávez. A year later, following Chávez’s death, Capriles lost another election to Maduro. Capriles publicly insisted he had won.
Despite his experiences with socialist-run elections, Capriles — who had long disappeared to the margins of Venezuelan politics — resurfaced in late August to demand that Guaidó and opposition leaders participate in the legislative elections.
“We will not leave the people without an option, we will support women and men who want to open paths,” Capriles said last week. “This is not about voting or not voting. The true dilemma is to struggle or not struggle, and I have decided to struggle.”
On Tuesday, following widespread condemnation of his attempts to legitimize Maduro-run elections, Capriles shrugged and said he did not know if even he, personally, would vote in December.
“I don’t know if I am going to vote on December 6. I think it is a false dilemma whether to participate or not participate, as the nation is not thinking about [elections] right now,” Capriles said.
In his remarks Tuesday, Maduro went on to claim that it is not himself, but a “stubborn and conscientious, rebellious, fighting and warrior people” who have won the past two presidential elections for him.
“Let those who want to listen to me and those who don’t listen to me in Venezuela and beyond Venezuela, these parliamentary elections are mandatory and in any circumstance – rain, thunder, or lightning – they must take place. All for the good of our institutions and democracy, there is no other option,” he affirmed.
The 57-year-old socialist added that he would win the upcoming elections and “rescue” the National Assembly from opposition control and put an end to international sanctions imposed by European countries and the United States.
The National Assembly is the last remaining democratically elected institution in the country, but elections for seats in the lawmaking body have not occurred since 2015 when the opposition overwhelmingly defeated Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
“In Venezuela, Donald Trump, [Colombian President] Iván Duque, or a fugitive from justice will not decide who will be the next deputies, but our beloved people in a sovereign way,” he declared. “The time has come to rescue the National Assembly and put it at the service of the people, who will rescue Citgo, the gold in London, and billions of dollars seized in Europe and the United States.”
Duque, a conservative allied with the United States, is one of the many Latin American leaders pushing for the removal of Maduro from power. Citgo, a U.S. based oil refinery, was placed in the hands Juan Guaidó — who legally became president of Venezuela after Maduro’s term expired in January 2019 — following his inauguration. Boris Johnson’s conservative government in the United Kingdom has also frozen Venezuela’s gold assets held in London as part of an international effort to deprive the Maduro regime of access to foreign capital.
Maduro has presided over at least five fraudulent elections since he took power in 2013. He enters this election season with the unprecedented advantage of having seized the leadership of multiple opposition political parties through the socialist-controlled Supreme Court. In July, the court ousted the board of Guaidó’s former party, the center-left Popular Will, and named José Gregorio Noriega, a lawmaker previously expelled from the party for his links to the Maduro regime, as its new leader. The month before, the court also seized control of the center-left Democratic Action and Justice First parties (Capriles’ party), a move that will consolidate his power in the upcoming elections even if opposition parties successfully take control of the chamber.