Vote likely to return congress to Maduro’s allies despite economy in ruins and US sanctions
Venezuelans go the polls on Sunday choose a new congress in an election that the opposition is boycotting and most western nations call a fraud by President Nicolás Maduro to retake the last state institution not in the hands of the ruling Socialist party.
The vote is almost certain to return congress to Maduro’s allies despite his government struggling with an economy in ruins, aggressive US sanctions that stifle the Opec nation’s oil exports, and the migration of 5 million citizens.
Members of the new congress will have few tools to improve the lives of Venezuelans whose monthly salaries rarely cover the cost of a day’s groceries, nor will their election improve Maduro’s reputation among western countries for mismanagement and undermining of human rights.
It could, however, provide legitimacy for Maduro to offer investment deals to the few companies around the world willing to risk defying Washington’s sanctions for access to the world’s largest oil reserves.
Many Venezuelans struggling with basic needs such as electricity, security and food are weary of their country’s politicians, who they say have done nothing to stem the slide in living conditions.
The election closes a cycle that began in 2015 when a euphoric opposition celebrated winning congress by a landslide, only to see its legislative powers swept aside by pro-government courts and the creation in 2017 of an all-powerful body known as the national onstituent assembly.
The opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, the head of the current congress, is calling on Venezuelans to boycott the vote and participate in a consultation on 12 December that will ask citizens if they reject Sunday’s vote and whether they want a change of government.