Few observers doubt that president Nicolas Maduro will win Sunday’s election in Venezuela, despite the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis.
Quite in doubt, however, is the fairness of the election, with opposition leaders banned or in self-exile. This week protestors gathered in the capital Caracas to protest the vote, which they say is rigged. The mainstream opposition is boycotting the election, which has been condemned (paywall) by much of the international community.
Yesterday the government of Colombia, which neighbors Venezuela, cast more doubt on the election. Its president, Juan Manuel Santos, claimed in a televised address that Maduro’s government was arranging for Colombians to participate in the vote. He said:
“Through trustworthy intelligence sources we have knowledge of a plan by the Maduro regime, in progress since the end of last year, to give identifications to Colombian citizens and transport them to vote in the May 20 elections… The plan details the manner, procedures and payments to be made to guarantee the movement of the voters and their vote in favor of Maduro.”
Santos added that his country would not recognize the outcome of the vote, and would step up patrols along the porous border in an attempt to reduce the transport of illegal voters.
Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have fled into neighboring Colombia, Brazil, and other countries to escape hunger and deprivation in their home country, testing the region’s tolerance for migrants (paywall) and straining relations with neighboring governments.
Maduro, for his part, looks well fed and is no doubt delighted about his next six years in power.