Europe may clash with the US over Venezuelan elections (ANALYSIS)
(CNN) – The European Union risks angering its most important ally next month, after the union agreed to send a team to Watch The Venezuelan electionswhich will take place on November 21.
The vote comes after three particularly chaotic years in the country, as questioned President Nicolas Maduro I managed to stay in power though a collapsed economyIt is the result of a disputed election in 2018 and a US-backed effort to remove him from power through coordinated Western sanctions involving the European Union.
However, earlier this year, the bloc abandoned its recognition of Juan Guaido, Maduro’s opponent, as the legitimate president, putting him at odds with the United States, which still recognizes Guaido.
In some corners of the US, this has raised concerns that by sending a delegation to the country for the first time since 2006, the EU is legitimizing a process that Maduro, an often powerful leader, will eventually win. dictator.
Anders Oppenheimer books In the Miami Herald last week, “the European Union has refused for the past 16 years to send election observation missions to Venezuela because it considered, with good reason, that the elections there were fraudulent.”
He concludes that on election night “it is possible that the EU mission will announce that there have been no major irregularities, and an ecstatic Maduro will claim to have won a fair election. Several months later, when the EU mission publishes its final report on who analyzes the entire electoral process and concludes with It was not a fair race and the elections will be forgotten.”
Diplomatic sources confirmed to CNN that this is not just a columnist’s fear, but that there are very real concerns that Maduro, whatever the intentions of the European Union, will be able to do this work to legitimize his grip on power.
Why would the EU be willing to do this and risk the wrath of its most important ally?
First, sources in Brussels refute the idea that this will de facto give the election the EU’s seal of approval. They say their agreement is based on the fact that the Venezuelan National Electoral Council invited a delegation. An EU official said Brussels then sent a mission to see if the elections could be monitored “in accordance with the 2005 UN directives”, noting that the bloc did not recognize the elections held in the country last year. “We’re not going there to legitimize the system, but to see what happens.”
Secondly, the official says: “It makes no difference how we monitor Iraq, Peru, Pakistan or Mali. This is one of the most well-known election monitors in the world, and if our partners ask us, we will explain our reasoning. No. We should not justify ourselves to anyone.”
To be sure, election monitoring groups often work and report on elections that are far from free or fair. For example, in 2017, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a highly respected organization, gave a scathing report on the Turkish independence referendum.
However, critics may argue that the context here is different. Turkey is a NATO ally and its democratic standards have waned for years. This was documentation of this decline, which angered President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
What is different is Venezuela’s relative isolation from the West. It is debatable that even if the EU returns a very important report, its mere participation in the process could be used by Maduro as propaganda.
A State Department spokesperson told CNN that the United States “believes that free and fair local national and presidential elections are essential for Venezuelans to achieve a peaceful and democratic solution to the crises facing their country.” Held jointly with the United States on June 25, on August 14, the European Union and Canada made clear that they They share our views… For more questions about the planned EU Election Observation Mission, we refer you to EU officials.”
These kinds of tensions between Brussels and Washington are, to some extent, inevitable, as the EU tries to increase its influence as a differentiated global power and defender of Western values, rather than as an extension of American influence.
However, the bloc must remember that whenever it deviates from US policy – whether with respect to China, Russia or Venezuela – the nation’s leaders will note that it still rises above everything else on the world stage.