By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- The embattled government of Nicolas Maduro brought a team of “fraud experts” to help it secure a key election Sunday, the MUD opposition coalition said Saturday, appealing to the Organization of American States to help it resolve the matter.
“We demand that Nicolas Maduro expels immediately the Nicaraguan 'advisors' from our country,” the opposition MUD coalition said in a press release.
“We ask that OAS and the regional governments demand of Nicaragua that it doesn’t meddle in Venezuela”, while adding that it will not accept a future, probable Nicaraguan mediation on the current crisis: “We reject the participation of Nicaragua in any initiative related to the situation in Venezuela.”
The “fraud experts” are behind the last-minute changes in voting venues that hinder 700,000-plus voters chances to partake in tomorrow’s vote, the opposition said on Saturday. “We denounce the presence of Nicaraguan experts on fraud techniques in our country’s regional elections”, the MUD said in a communique.
Without warning or the required consultation and less than 48 hours before Sunday's vote, the Venezuelan government suddenly moved over 274 voting locations where citizens would vote, almost all in heavily opposition precincts.
“The brusque changes of voting centers is a technique known as ‘crazy mouse’ (in Spanish, raton loco), used by the government of Nicaragua to confuse opposition voters,” the MUD statement added.
“Since 2006 when Daniel Ortega arrived in power in Nicaragua, every election has been marred by fraud through the use of different mechanisms such as storm troops similar to ‘colectivos.’” In Venezuela, the ‘colectivos’ are armed gangs that attack opposition militants: Attorney General in exile Luis Ortega has accused them of being involved in extrajudicial executions and repression of demonstrations.
Nationwide, some 51 centers were shut down without warning. The electors will now have to go vote in centers located in or near dangerous slums. In Miranda state, which the opposition won by five percentage points in 2012, 10% of all voters were relocated.
Abstention for regional elections, which began in Venezuela in 1989, is typically high but the change of venues could exacerbate it, the opposition has said.
The Maduro-controlled CNE electoral board said the venues were changed on security and infrastructure reasons. However, voters who previously cast their ballots in a private university near their homes will now have to wait in line several hours in a rural school atop a hill.
"Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo are unconditional allies of Nicolás Maduro. Both have now become their main advisers in organizing electoral frauds," the opposition said.
In elections that were constitutionally mandated to have taken place last year, Venezuelan will go to the polls to elect 23 governors on Sunday.