Caracas, Venezuela (VA) – US Democrat presidential frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accused Venezuela’s leftist president Nicolas Maduro of attempting to “rig” the upcoming National Assembly elections.
Speaking at the Atlanta Council conference “Politics, Government and Women in Latin America: Better than you think?” this past Monday, Clinton beseeched hemispheric leaders to “raise their voices” on behalf of the Venezuelan people this Sunday, when they will elect their representatives to the country’s National Assembly.
“To date, (the Maduro administration) has been doing all it can to rig the elections: jailing political opponents, blocking with trumped up charges, stoking political tensions.”
“The people of Venezuela need to know that their friends and neighbours in the Americas are rallying to their cause and defence. They are not alone,” she stated.
Clinton’s comments come less than two weeks after it was revealed that the State Department’s embassy in Caracas had collaborated with the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on executives at Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.
Presidential elections are not due in Venezuela until 2019, but the upcoming elections to choose the country’s representatives to parliament could potentially increase the influence of the Venezuelan opposition coalition, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD), on national policy– especially if it garners two-thirds of parliamentary seats.
While the ruling socialist party has consistently won the majority of national elections over the past fifteen years, 2015’s parliamentary elections are taking place in the midst of a spiralling economic crisis. Some observers predict that general discontent amongst the population could translate to political gains for the opposition.
In her speech, Clinton appeared to strongly back an opposition win this Sunday, and rejected the possibility that the government could win the majority of the National Assembly fairly.
Nonetheless, the presidential hopeful did not take advantage of her time on the podium to elaborate on the basis for her accusations. She also made no reference to the country’s National Electoral Council (CNE), which is responsible for monitoring electoral contests in the country, nor the international electoral observation mission headed by UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) that will also accompany Sunday’s vote.
In other comments, Clinton waded into the contentious murder of opposition parliamentary candidate Luis Manuel Diaz who was shot at a political event last week.
Opposition spokespeople immediately moved to blame the death on Chavista groups, but information since released by authorities suggests that the murder was related to turf wars and unsettled scores between rival organised criminal groups.
Diaz himself had spent three years in prison awaiting trial for his connection to a double homicide and had received a series of death threats since he was temporarily released.
“I am outraged by the cold-blooded assassination of Luis Manuel Diaz on stage at a rally last week,” stated Clinton.
Voices in the Region
In what seemed to be a thinly veiled vote of confidence in the newly elected Argentine president, millionaire former businessman Mauricio Macri, Clinton added that she welcomed “voices across the region that have started to speak up for democratic values, but we need much more”.
Since his election last Sunday, Macri has pledged to have Venezuela suspended from the regional organisation MERCOSUR (the Common Market of the South), but has failed to gain the backing of other leaders on the continent.
As former Secretary of State for the Obama administration between 2009-2013, Clinton’s tenure coincided with an increase in funding for political opposition groups in Venezuela from institutions such as the National Endowment for Democracy– which in return receives an annual appropriation from US Congress through the State Department.
On Monday she vowed that the US would “show leadership and lead in the region more broadly” if she were to become president in 2016.
This report prepared by By