No sooner had the campaign for Venezuela’s Parliamentary elections began that acts of violence began. There have been at least seven acts of violence during campaign events. Curiously, all of them have been against the opposition. These are not simple threats or side shows. As shown above, one of these incidents involved hooded activists, most wearing the emblematic Chavista red shirts, some of them holding machine guns.
Then, two nights ago, as an opposition rally was winding down, the Secretary General of Accion Democratica in Guarico State, Luis Manul Diaz, was shot death. This was no ordinary rally, the wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, Lilian Tintori, was present and close to the shots, there were over three thousand people in attendance and the bullets sprayed walls and luckily did not hit anyone else.
When the violence follows Maduro’s statements that Chavismo will win the elections “Como sea” (In any way…”), it is difficult to dismiss the meaning of these acts of violence. But when there are deaths involved, it becomes particularly dangerous to dismiss the violence or not remind the Government that it is in charge of law and order.
Particularly at fault have been the representatives from UNASUR, the only ones allowed to “observe” the upcoming elections, who have reacted with platitudes directed to the electorate and both sides, rather than remind the Government of its responsibilities to maintain order and prevent violence.
The reaction by the Government has been as cynical as can be. From Godgiven’s “these were all a set up by the opposition”, to suggesting that the dead political leader was a murderer and this was nothing more than a fight between unions. As if human life was only the right of a selected few and the same presumption of innocence, the same one that the Government wants applied to the two “Venezuelans” detained in a drug sting in Haiti, does not appear to apply to these people.
The important question is whether the Government is looking to postpone the election or simply to create fear in the elctorate as well as in the politicians looking for votes. I have never been in the camp of those that believe that the Government will cancel the elections, so I have to go for the second argument. The strategy for Chavismo is a multiple one: From state of emergency in border states, to Min Unidad distracting vote, to violence and intimidation. Once the votes are in, and if they are unfavorable, then the “Como sea” strategy will need to be implemented. But not before.