The Real Risk That Maduro Would Defy Election Defeat

As Venezuela's government becomes nervous about possible defeat in parliamentary elections Sunday, its threatening rhetoric shows signs it might refuse to acknowledge a loss at the polls. Then, all bets are off.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Nov. 30
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Nov. 30


BOGOTA â€" All signs indicate an imminent victory for the opposition in Venezuela's legislative elections Sunday, and that means the beginning of the end for the authoritarian regime of President Nicolás Maduro, and for 16 years of socialist Bolivarian rule launched by the late Hugo Chavez.

And yet, the government's blatant superiority in strength, political violence, disqualification of opponents and the possibility of fraud are setting off alarms, notably at the Organization of American States (OAS).

As pessimism builds at the presidential palace in Caracas, the Venezuelan leadership has adopted a more aggressive discourse, using abusive language and, worse, implicitly threatening that it won't recognize the results of Sunday's polls. Maduro has said that "in that hypothetical, distorted, rejected" situation (meaning an opposition victory), he would assume his "political and military" responsibility and even "take to the streets."

The explanation for such crazy talk is in what the polls are saying, that the opposition is between 20 and 30 points ahead of the pro-government coalition. Amid the simmering distrust and tensions, an opposition politician was shot dead days ago at a rally. Luis Manuel Díaz, a regional leader for the opposition MUD coalition, was killed at a gathering that included Lilian Tintori, wife of detained politician Leopoldo López who has herself become one of the opposition's most visible international faces.

The OAS, changing its previous, muted conduct, vigorously condemned the incident, and its secretary general, Luis Almagro, issued a communiqué urging the Venezuelan government to investigate. It deplored the intimidation of opponents and declared that the elections can't be an "exercise in brute force, violence and fear."

In typical form, President Maduro called the OAS "trash." Almagro wrote back saying he would be trash if he "were lenient with killings, threats and the logic of fear. We would be trash if deaths in Venezuela did not affect us." He urged Maduro to disband armed groups, "especially those dependent on the government and its party," the socialist PSUV.

Almagro is right, of course, and all regional governments should state their support for the OAS posture, especially since the other regional grouping, UNASUR, and its secretary general, Ernesto Samper, a former president of Colombia, have had a shameful attitude towards Venezuela so far.

Several issues are at stake on Dec 6. One is the need to wrench control of parliament from the government and its allies. The president has so far had tight control of not only the three branches of government â€" executive, legislative and judiciary â€" but also other departments. The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) is threatening this accumulation of power.

Venezuelans will be voting for 167 legislators, with 84 constituting a simple majority. We should recall that in 2010, the opposition won 65 seats, though the mathematical logic will not apply here, as this parliament's meddling with electoral boundaries â€" gerrymandering, as Americans call it â€" will make it difficult for the opposition to win the 100- or 110-seat absolute majority it needs to make big changes in the country. This means that the opposition, which is stronger in cities, will need to win about 60% of all votes just to get a simple majority. Go figure.

Either way, this Sunday could deliver the Bolivarian movement its first big electoral defeat since the constitutional referendum of 2007. With serious problems of corruption, shortages, inflation, crime and an increasingly authoritarian government, Venezuela needs changes now and in the medium term. Voters have the decisive word on this, and the government must heed their verdict.

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The Olympic torch is lit at the Archaeological site of Olympia in Greece.

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Asham!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Pyongyang test fires a suspected submarine-launched missile, Colin Powell is remembered, Poland-EU tensions rise, and yay (or yeesh): it's officially Ye. Meanwhile, our latest edition of Work → In Progress takes the pulse of the new professional demands in a recovering economy.

[*Oromo - Ethiopia and Kenya]


• North Korea fires missile off Japan coast: South Korea military reports that North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into the waters off the coast of Japan. The rocket, thought to have been launched from a submarine, is the latest test in a series of provocations in recent weeks.

• Poland/EU tensions: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused the EU of "blackmail" and said the European Union is overstepping its powers, in a heated debate with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen over the rule of law. The escalation comes in the wake of a controversial ruling by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal that puts national laws over EU principles.

• Colin Powell remembered: Tributes are pouring for former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, after his death yesterday at age 84. Although fully vaccinated, Powell died from complications from COVID-19 as he was battling blood cancer. A trailblazing soldier, he then helped shape U.S. foreign policy, as national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and served as the nation's top diplomat for George W. Bush. Powell's legacy is, by his own admission, "blotted" by his faulty claims of weapons of mass destruction to justify the U.S. war in Iraq.

• Russia to suspend NATO diplomatic mission amid tension: Russia is suspending its diplomatic mission to NATO and closing the alliance's offices in Moscow as relations with the Western military block have plunged to a new low. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the move after NATO expelled eight diplomats from Russia's mission for alleged spying. Relations between NATO and Russia have been strained since Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

• Ecuador state of emergency to battle drug crime: President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency amid Ecuador's surge in drug-related violence. He announced the mobilization of police and the military to patrol the streets, provide security, and confront drug trafficking and other crimes.

• Taliban agrees to house-to-house polio vaccine drive: The WHO and Unicef campaign will resume nationwide polio vaccinations after more than three years, as the new Taliban government agreed to support the campaign and to allow women to participate as frontline health workers. Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the last countries in the world with endemic polio, an incurable and infectious disease

• Kanye West officially changes name: Some say yay, some say yeesh, but it's official: The-artist-formerly-known-as-Kanye-West has legally changed his name to Ye, citing "personal reasons."


The Washington Post pays tribute to Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. Secretary of State, who died at 84 years old from complications from COVID-19.


Jashn-e Riwaaz

Indian retailer Fabindia's naming its new collection Jashn-e Riwaaz, an Urdu term meaning "celebration of tradition," has been met with severe backlash and calls for boycott from right-wing Hindu groups. They are accusing the brand of false appropriation by promoting a collection of clothes designed for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, but giving it a name in Urdu, a language spoken by many Muslims.


Work → In Progress: Where have all the workers gone?

After the economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, companies all over the world are taking advantage of loosened lockdowns and progress on the vaccine front to ramp up operations and make up for lost productivity. But the frenetic spurts of the recovery are getting serious pushback. This edition of Work → In Progress looks not only at the coming changes in our post-COVID economy, but also the ways our world is re-evaluating professional obligations.

🗓️ Hail the 4-day week Across the planet, the shorter work week trend is spreading like wildfire. Four is the new five. Spain began experimenting with the concept earlier this year. New Zealand launched a similar trial run in 2020. And in Iceland, efforts to curb working hours date all the way back to 2015, with significant results: 86% of the country's workforce gained the right to reduce work hours with no change in pay.

🚚 Empty seats In the United States, meanwhile, a severe lack of truck drivers has the country's transportation industry looking to hire from abroad. The only problem is … the shortage is happening worldwide, in part because of the e-commerce boom in the wake of worldwide quarantines. The Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano reports that companies will be scrambling to fill the jobs of 17,000 truck drivers in the next two years. The article blames low wages and the dangerous nature of the job, stating that Italian companies are making moves to employ foreign workers.

💼 Key help wanted It's all well and good to question current working conditions. But what about 20 years from now? Will we be working at all? A recent article in the French daily Les Echos posed just that question, and posits that by 2041 — and with the exception of a few select jobs — automation and digitalization will decimate employment. The piece refers to the lucky few as "essential workers," a concept that originated with COVID lockdowns when almost all labor halted and only a minority of workers capable of performing society's most crucial in-person tasks were allowed to carry on.

➡️


I'm worried for my Afghan sisters.

— Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai Nobel Prize tells the BBC that despite the Taliban's announcement that they would soon lift the ban on girls' education in Afghanistan, she worries it "might last for years."

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Are you more yay or yeesh about the artist currently known as Ye? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at!

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