By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS – Evangelical pastor Javier Bertucci has accused embattled Venezuelan head of state Nicolas Maduro of buying votes, and even quoted a price: Maduro pays each voter 2 million bolivars, or $9 at the black market rate, according to Pastor Bertucci.
“It is not a secret for anybody that the government pays up to 2 million bolivars per vote,” Bertucci said during a campaign stop in oil-rich Zulia state, where he met with representatives of Venezuelan native communities and, more importantly, with a group of employees from PDVSA, the troubled state oil company.
Already, Argentina, France, the European Union and the United States have denounced the May 20 elections as unfair and have vowed not to recognize the results.
Jose V. Carrasquero, a former high official with the CNE electoral authority, told the Latin American Herald Tribune (LAHT),
that vote-buying is no secret.
“It’s been like that since forever, but the price has gone up though,” Carrasquero said.
While $9 may not seem like much, it is more than two months of minimum wage salary in a country where about 75% of the work force makes the minimum.
Polls give Bertucci no chance and analysts view him as just an also ran. However, on Monday he made scandalous, yet often repeated, accusations as to just exactly how Maduro keeps on winning elections, often by unbelievable margins, with his popularity in the doldrums and after receiving in late 2015 the biggest electoral defeat in Venezuelan history.
Bertucci is also considered by some as being part of the “Bible Tide,” a series of evangelical and/or Christian candidates making important inroads in electoral politics all over Latin American, specifically in Central America and Brazil.
The religious candidate also took exception with two other “chavista” strategies closely linked to vote-buying: “voto asistido” (“assisted voting”) where the voter (supposedly elderly, illiterate or otherwise handicapped) is accompanied inside the voting booth by somebody else, who is ostensibly “assisting” the voter, but may be actually forcing that person to alter his vote in favor of Maduro; and the “red spots” (“puntos rojos”), small concentrations of chavista militants, “colectivo” pro-Maduro gang members and sometimes armed and uniformed members of the armed forces or the National Police placed near voting stations on election day, with loud music and partisan propaganda, which is expressly forbidden by electoral law during the polls. The opposition says the “red spots” force neighbors to vote for Maduro or his candidates because voters then have to go there to get their welfare cards scanned.
“One other thing I will demand of the CNE is that they do not allow red spots at fewer than 200 meters from voting centers, because that is unfair,” Bertucci also said on Monday. “And I will also request the elimination of the assisted vote, that it only be allowed in cases where it is really necessary, in order to avoid that a person assists another under the condition of a previous or posterior pay off.”