The Venezuelan government’s decision to plow ahead with early presidential elections over the objections of the opposition risks spurring more international sanctions and exacerbating an economic and social crisis driving increasing numbers of Venezuelans into exile, analysts said Thursday. Opposition politicians were meeting the day after officials announced the April 22 vote, deciding whether to challenge socialist President Nicolas Maduro in an election that several foreign nations have already vowed not to recognize — or to boycott it. They accuse Maduro’s government of rigging recent elections and making a fair race impossible, in part by barring the most popular opposition parties and candidates. International condemnation of the snap election has begun pouring in.
Once among Latin America’s wealthiest countries, oil-rich Venezuela is in a deepening crisis marked by soaring inflation and food shortages.
But analysts say massive street protests are unlikely to re-ignite because many were frightened by the government’s brutal response to unrest last year. They say people are more inclined to abandon their native country than risk jail or death.
The real pressure driving change could come from the United States and possibly European nations, targeting Venezuela’s oil exports. Maduro’s government relies on that cash flow the oil provides to maintain power inside his government, especially military support.