A just-released National Lawyers Guild (NLG) report finds that the 2012 presidential election which reseated Venezuela President Hugo Chávez was conducted fairly and accountably.
NLG President Azadeh Shahshahani was a part of the delegation that monitored the October voting.
“What struck us most was the trust of the Venezuelan people in the integrity of the electoral system and the amount that the Venezuelan government has invested in keeping that trust,” Shahshahani said. “If the United States wants a truly transparent democratic system, we have a lot to learn from Venezuela.”
Chávez won the election by an 11 percent margin. Delegation members watched polls in Caracas and in several states around the country. In the report they note that voter outreach drives by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council contributed to an 80.94 percent turnout rate for the election. By election time, 96.5 percent of all eligible voters were registered. In comparison, the 2012 U.S. presidential election drew 37.5 percent of eligible voters, of whom only 61.1 percent are registered to vote.
"The electoral system in Venezuela provides a stark contrast to recent efforts to restrict and suppress the vote in the United States, such as voter ID laws," said delegation member and past NLG International Committee Co-Chair Susan Scott. "Those in the American press and government who are eager to paint Venezuela's elections as corrupt would do well to apply the same level of scrutiny at home."
In early December 2012, Chávez underwent surgery for cancer and has experienced complications that have required him to remain in Cuba for extended care. When it became apparent that he would be unable to attend the January 10 inauguration ceremony the Venezuelan National Assembly approved his request to postpone the inauguration, and the Venezuelan Supreme Court determined that Article 231 of the Bolivarian Constitution allows for the swearing-in to occur at a later date. The Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Miguel Insulza, has since stated that his organization “fully respects” the court’s decision.
The National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has members in every state.