Once a "flagship socialist nation," Venezuela has suffered over the past couple of years from a dramatic economic crisis that has resulted in severe shortages of food, clean water, electricity, medicines and hospital supplies all of which have resulted in a desperate population which has resorted to the black market and violence for survival. That said, Venezuela likely inched one step closer to revolution on Friday when Maduro's leftist government took steps to block a recall referendum that could have resulted in his ouster. According to the US News and World Report, Venezuelan opposition leaders are calling the efforts of Maduro "a coup" in light of the broad based public support of the recall effort.
Venezuela is bracing for turbulence after the socialist government blocked a presidential recall referendum in a move opposition leaders are calling a coup.
The opposition is urging supporters to take to the streets, beginning with a march on a major highway Saturday led by the wives of jailed activists, while a leading government figure is calling for the arrest of high-profile government critics.
Polls suggest socialist President Nicolas Maduro would lose a recall vote. But that became a moot issue on Thursday when elections officials issued an order suspending a recall signature drive a week before it was to start.
"What we saw yesterday was a coup," said former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who had been the leading champion of the recall effort. "We'll remain peaceful, but we will not be taken for fools. We must defend our country."
International condemnation was swift. Twelve western hemisphere nations, including the U.S. and even leftist-run governments such as Chile and Uruguay, said in a statement Friday that the suspension of the referendum and travel restrictions on the opposition leadership affects the prospect for dialogue and finding a peaceful solution to the nation's crisis.
The Maduro government has claimed that the recall was halted due to "irregularities in a first-round of signature gathering" though the public, 80% of whom polls suggest supported the recall efforts, aren't buying it. Meanwhile, Maduro loyalists are calling for opposition leaders to be imprisoned for attempts to commit election fraud.
Critical television stations have been closed and several leading opposition activists have been imprisoned. The country's supreme court, packed with government supporters, has endorsed decree powers for Maduro and said he can ignore Congress following a landslide victory for the opposition in legislative elections.
The election commission, which has issued a string of pro-government rulings, halted the recall process on grounds of alleged irregularities in a first-round of signature gathering.
Polls suggest 80 percent of voters wanted Maduro gone this year, and the electoral council on Tuesday also ordered a delay of about six months in gubernatorial elections that were slated for year-end which the opposition was heavily favored to win. It gave no reason for the delay.
Meanwhile, one of his most powerful allies, Diosdado Cabello, said top opposition leaders should be jailed for attempting election fraud. And opposition leaders said a local court blocked eight of their leaders from leaving the country.
Of course, the integrity of "elections" in Venezuela have long been questioned particularly after WikiLeaks posted the following cable linking Hugo Chavez to a mysterious company that came out of nowhere in 2000 and suddenly snatched up major contracts to supply voting machines around the world. The company, Smartmatic, included a Hugo Chavez campaign adviser on it's board. Curiously, according to Gateway Pundit, the company's board also included Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, a man who served on the board of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations and who was formerly the vice-chairman of Soros’s Investment Funds.
"Ironically," shortly after winning a "multi-million" dollar contract to supply these voting machines in Venezuela, Chavez won a landslide victory in the 2004 elections that all but destroyed his political opposition.
But, what is perhaps even more disturbing is that Smartmatic has also secured major contracts to supply voting machines for 16 states in the U.S., including key battleground states like Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Which leaves us with only one thing left to say:
"Those who cast the votes decide nothing.
Those who count the votes decide everything.”