Venezuela’s partisan divide is so deep and bitter that even the ID requirements for voters in Sunday’s critical elections have sparked controversy. Critics who fear the government of leftist President Nicolas Maduro wants to use the vote to push through a new constitution to keep him in power are questioning not just the motive but also the method of the national vote. When Venezuelans vote on Sunday to elect members of a constituent assembly, they will use special government-issued ID cards that have two numbers on the back. Plugged into the electoral system database, the numbers generate the identities of two people, said Gabriela Febres-Cordero, a former minister of trade for Venezuela.
“I have no answer to why this is the case, but I worry,” said Ms. Febres-Cordero, addressing a briefing at the Washington-based Hudson Institute this week. “I worry because the trend we’ve seen in the last several years [in the Venezuelan government] is deceiving and unethical.”
The vote will be watched closely in Washington and across Latin America, where the economic and political implosion of one of the world’s energy superpowers has caused tension and instability far beyond Venezuela’s borders. The vote could also determine whether Mr. Maduro, the hand-picked successor to the late anti-U.S. populist Hugo Chavez, can hold on to power even after his formal term ends in October 2018.
The assembly vote has drawn millions of Venezuelans to protest in the streets this week, heightening political tensions that have led to thousands of arrests and injuries and more than 100 deaths since April.