Refusing to Collapse

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President Nicolás Maduro seems likely to breeze through Venezuela’s July 28 general election.

He recently won the nomination of his political party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, with little or no opposition, reported the Associated Press. He also faces no serious rival. Last year, Venezuelan officials barred his main opponent, María Corina Machado, from running for office for 15 years because she supported American sanctions on the socialist country and supported former opposition leader Juan Guaidó, reported Reuters.

On Friday, Machado threw her support behind a proxy candidate because of the ban on her run: 80-year-old historian and professor Corina Yoris, Al Jazeera reported.

Maduro is the chosen successor of the late President Hugo Chávez, the wildly popular but controversial left-wing leader who inaugurated a socialist regime in the oil-rich country, tilting its diplomatic relations toward China and Russia while alienating the US. He died in 2013. A former bus driver, the current president has “leveraged the top-down Chavista framework, the destruction of institutions, military support and the intelligence services to prop himself up in the presidential seat,” explained Spain’s El País.

Shortages of food and other crucial supplies as well as soaring prices have been the norm under Maduro’s socialist rule. The Stimson Center, a Washington, DC-based think tank, described the South American country as “the state that refuses to collapse,” arguing that Chinese economic ties have just about kept the government in place while migration has transferred the most disgruntled Venezuelans to other parts of the world.

Meanwhile, Machado, whose criticism of the government’s mismanagement of its oil resources has struck a chord among the Venezuelan public, was forced to decide whether to pull her name from ballot registrations or else potentially face punishment for breaking the law.

“They believe this is just one more election, one more electoral fight where they can run us over, or cheat, that we’re going to stay quiet and lower our heads,” she said recently. “They haven’t understood anything.”

Ironically, Machado can’t take part in a deal that Maduro’s government struck with opposition parties last year that guaranteed the upcoming vote take place at all, added World Politics Review. The US has paused some sanctions to encourage such a deal. However, as Adam DuBard, a former Marcellus policy fellow of the John Quincy Adams Society, wrote in the Hill, the US must decide whether to extend the pause or resume the punishments, including cutting the West off from Venezuelan energy exports.

Still, Maduro appears to be girding for the return of the sanctions, wrote, potentially telegraphing how the election will be held.

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