In the initial returns of Venezuela’s opposition presidential primary, former legislator María Corina Machado has surged ahead, promptly asserting her triumph as the candidate poised to bring an end to Nicolás Maduro’s crisis-stricken decade-long presidency.
The independent National Primary Commission, the entity responsible for orchestrating the primary, reported that approximately 93% of the first 601,110 counted ballots favored Machado, who had entered the race as a formidable frontrunner. The remainder of the votes were distributed among the other nine contenders. The precise voter turnout remained undisclosed, with organizers slated to release further results throughout Monday.
María Corina Machado, addressing her supporters outside her campaign headquarters in Caracas, declared, “Today, very powerful forces have been unleashed. Today, we have showcased our capabilities in the face of numerous obstacles and injustices.”
Undertaking Venezuela’s first presidential primary since 2012 necessitated a unified effort by the deeply divided opposition. Venezuelan citizens demonstrated their dedication by enduring lengthy queues, even in the face of scorching sun and torrential rain, both within and outside their homeland.
However, the profound exercise in democracy witnessed by many could potentially encounter obstacles. While the administration theoretically agreed to allow the opposition to select its candidate for the 2024 presidential election, it has already disallowed Machado from pursuing office.
Voters stood resiliently in lines for hours, equipped with umbrellas, foldable stools, and refreshments to endure expected wait times. They sought shelter against inclement weather by leaning against buildings and congregating beneath marquees.
Stephanie Aguilar, a 34-year-old resident of Caracas, waited to cast her vote, shedding tears as she did so. She viewed the primary as the sole “salvation” for her nation, her children, and the countless Venezuelans who have emigrated due to the nation’s economic and political upheaval. Aguilar, a homemaker, articulated, “We yearn for a better, free country for my children who have grown up under this government. They inquire, ‘Mom, can we dine out?’ No, there is no money. ‘Mom, can we engage in this activity?’ No, there is no money. It is disheartening that a society matures under such conditions.”
The head of the National Primary Commission, Jesús María Casal, attributed the protracted delay in releasing election results to internet restrictions.
London-based internet monitoring firm NetBlocks documented metrics indicating “a disruption to internet connectivity in #Venezuela with high impact to Caracas.” It noted that a state-owned internet service provider had cited “an issue with its energy backup system.”
David Smilde, an expert on Venezuelan politics at Tulane University, emphasized the significance of the primary, noting that it compelled political leaders and opposition parties to engage directly with the populace. He underscored the substantial enthusiasm and mobilization generated among a population that had grown skeptical of opposition leadership in recent times.
The presidential election, expected to occur in the latter half of 2024, will witness Maduro vying to extend his presidency until 2030, surpassing the tenure of his mentor, Hugo Chávez, who implemented his self-described socialist policies.
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