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18 April 2013

Chavez’s successor stirs election controversy

Freshman Veronica Lopez and her family left Venezuela when she was 3 years old. In the 15 years she has lived in this country, she has visited Venezuela three times. The last time she visited was nine years ago.

“We left because my dad feared the government and what could happen,” Lopez said.

Now, due to the recent election results, Lopez may not be returning anytime soon.

After former President Hugo Chavez died in March, he hand-picked Nicolas Maduro to lead the country as his successor.

Election results announced this week named Maduro as the legitimate winner of the election, but opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has “presented a series of allegations of vote fraud and other irregularities,” the AP reported.

The AP also reported “Maduro was declared the winner by 262,000 votes out of 14.9 million cast, and Capriles contends the purported abuses add up to more than Maduro’s winning margin.”

Members of the opposition party have demanded a recount, but Maduro, who first agreed to a recount, has now expressed his adamant position against conducting a recount of the votes.

“It’s a difficult situation, because the vote was so close that it really needs to be recounted in order to make Maduros’ declared election victory more legitimate,” said Susan Purcell, director of the center of hemispheric policy at UM. “If I understand correctly, the constitution allows for a recount in certain cases, but I think in this case it fits.”

According to Purcell, the fact that Maduros first agreed to a recount of half of the votes and later to none of the votes, calls to question the accuracy of the vote counts.

“It feeds into the idea that maybe Caprilles maybe did win, because they seem to be afraid of recounting the ballots,” Purcell said.

According to Purcell, other facts make her doubt that Maduros really won the election legitimately.

“The minister of defense came out before the election and said the armed forces will not accept an opposition victory,” she said. “That again raises questions about how democratic this situation really was. I guess I just think that all the rumors I’ve been hearing are that people are very skeptical when you have such a small margin and the regime refuses to recount and also declares beforehand that they won’t let the opposition win. It adds credence to the idea that they somehow manipulated the outcome.”

Overall, Purcell believes the entire situation will only worsen the country’s economy.

“I think it’s a very difficult situation,” she said. “The economy is deteriorating, and I have my doubts as to whether the economic policies that a Maduro administration would pursue would stop the deterioration. It might even accelerate it.”

Lopez expressed her sentiments regarding the current situation in her home country.

“Based on the elections outcome, I’m really hurt and upset,” she said. “Based on the situation in the country, I’m really worried about the state of the country and the people.”