President Nicolas Maduro defended Venezuela’s recent gubernatorial results amid accusations of fraud and other voting irregularities from opposition leaders.
“[On Sunday] we made a feat, the sons and daughters of Chavez did,” Maduro told an international press conference on Tuesday.
Maduro’s ruling party won a surprise majority in Sunday’s regional elections, prompting the opposition to refused to accept the results, with various leaders saying the election was rigged.
The results amounted to a crushing blow for the opposition Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) coalition, which had characterised the elections as a referendum on Maduro after months of deadly street protests earlier this year failed to unseat him.
The MUD took only five states, with one still undecided, to the government’s 17. But opinion polls had put it ahead in as many as 18 states.
Responding to the accusations of fraud, Maduro said on Tuesday that Venezuela’s electoral process is “the most audited and secure in the world”, adding that “nobody can commit fraud”.
“We have come from a complex, intense process, difficult, all these years have not been easy.. [but] we have learnt to face each situation with serenity
“We have come from a complex, intense process, difficult, all these years have not been easy, because of those retrograde forces, that consider us their backyard.. (This has been a) psychological, economic war. All the forms of wars, and they have had internal allies … we have learnt to face each situation with serenity,” he explained.
The US, a staunch critic of Maduro, condemned what it called the “lack of free and fair elections”. The comments from Washington come a month after US President Donald Trump refuse to rule out military intervention in Venezuela.
On Tuesday, Maduro accused the opposition of “answering to [Washington’s] calls”.
“We met [with the opposition] more than 100 times, I have the evidence,” Maduro said.
“They [the opposition] do not have the capacity to make their own decisions, and we do not know who in Washington is answering to their calls,” he added.
“However the empire has given an order, not to recognise this victory … but we will respond to this.”
The European Union also said the results of Sunday’s polls were “surprising” and called on the government to “find out what really happened”.
Maduro said that Venezuelans gave “a strong message to imperialism, to Trump, to its regional allies and to the local right”.
Despite the ongoing political crisis, as well as inflation and food shortages, Maduro does retain some level of support, especially in the poorer, rural parts of the country.
“It’s not going to be an economic war or an induced inflation that makes this people give up,” Maduro said during the three-hour press conference on Tuesday.
Some opposition members have acknowledged fatigue by their supporters, saying that many may be disillusioned by the failure of street protests earlier this year.
Two losing opposition candidates, Henri Falcon and Alejandro Feo La Cruz, both conceded defeat in the regional poll – breaking with the opposition coalition’s official position.
While they denounced “irregularities” in the vote, they also lamented that many supporters stayed at home.
“We lost,” said Henri Falcon. “We need courage to recognise truth in adversity.”
But others, including opposition spokesman Angel Oropeza, strongly rejected the results, saying the polls were “a process of electoral fraud without precedent in [Venezuela’s] history”.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies