Right-wing post-electoral violence leaves 7 dead in Venezuela, ARENA legislator implicated in destabilization


(Note: Since this blog entry was published, the death count has risen to nine and the number of injuries to 78 as a result of right-wing post-electoral violence) Following the victory of Hugo Chavez’s former vice president Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela’s presidential elections last Sunday, right-wing destabilization efforts have resulted in at least seven deaths. While at least 47 countries have sent official delegations to Maduro’s inauguration today, the US and Spanish governments are alone in their echoing the opposition’s call for a complete recount of votes before they will recognize Maduro. The Venezuelan President-elect has been congratulated by Latin American governments across the political spectrum, including El Salvador, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile.

In the days following Maduro’s victory by a margin of 1.7%, the defeated opposition candidate Henrique Capriles called for his supporters to “take all your hatred out, all your frustration, in the name of peace.” The ensuing violence wrought by his supporters against health clinics, the offices of the country’s electoral authority and media outlets resulted in seven deaths and 61 injuries. Maduro called on the public to be on the alert and defend the nation’s sovereignty against a coup d’état being plotted by the opposition with support from the US Embassy.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated the US’s demand for a total recount, despite the fact that Venezuela’s famously transparent electoral system automatically audits over 50% of the vote (former US President Jimmy Carter has called it “the best in the world”). Maduro denounced the US intervention, saying, “we don’t care about your recognition.”

Prior to the elections, Maduro denounced other destabilization tactics, including an electrical sabotage planned for Election Day as well plans for his assassination being plotted by the local opposition along with “Central American right-wing mercenaries.” He specifically referred to several former members of the Salvadoran Armed Forces as well as right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party legislator Roberto d’Aubuisson (son of the late ARENA founder of the same name).

Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes quickly called for a police investigation of the accusations against d’Aubuisson, saying that Maduro is a serious person and would not make the claim without evidence. In a televised interview, Funes invoked the d’Aubuisson family’s bloody past: “I’ve taken into account that Maduro is denouncing an important legislator, the son of the founder of the ARENA party, who in the past was involved with death squads and the assassination of our martyred bishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. Representative d’Aubuisson’s brother was murdered in Guatemala by structures linked to narco-trafficking. So I insist that if it walks like a duck and quacks, then it could be a duck.”

The opposition violence and the US government’s position evidence the lengths to which the international right-wing will go to curb leftist transformations in Latin America. With El Salvador’s presidential elections—the first since 2009, when the ARENA party lost power to the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front after 20 consecutive years of governance–scheduled for February 2, 2014, ARENA members’ involvement in destabilization efforts in Venezuela raise many concerns about the tactics the Salvadoran right could resort to to thwart another FMLN victory.

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Salvadorans, solidarity groups and faith partners gather in September 2023 to decry human rights abuses in El Salvador and continued U.S. support (photo: CISPES)