Note: The regular WOLA publication previously known as the ‘Venezuela Weekly,’ now the ‘Venezuela Update,’ will be published on WOLA’s Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights Blog on a monthly or biweekly basis, rather than weekly, in the future.

On Sunday, January 9, Venezuela will hold a supplemental election in the state of Barinas, following the pro-government Supreme Court’s disqualification of the victory of opposition candidate Freddy Superlano. Sunday’s election follows regional and municipal elections that took place on November 21, which saw a landslide victory for pro-government candidates in 20 out of 23 states and 205 out of 332 municipalities.

Though international observers regarded the November 21 elections as the most free and inclusive process the country has seen in years, the elections occurred in a fundamentally uneven playing field, according to the preliminary reports of the European Union and Carter Center. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the case of Barinas, traditionally a Chavista stronghold, where opposition candidate Freddy Superlano (Voluntad Popular) was projected to win by a slim margin—37.6 percent to 37.21 percent—against Argenis Chávez, the brother of Venezuela’s late president. Eight days after the election, the Supreme Court (TSJ), closely aligned with the Maduro government, ruled to retroactively disqualify Superlano as a gubernatorial candidate, based on an administrative sanction imposed by the government related to his role in the 2015 National Assembly—in spite of an August 2020 presidential pardon that allowed Superlano and other previously disqualified opposition candidates to run. After the TSJ disqualified two subsequent opposition candidates on widely criticized grounds, a supplemental election was scheduled for January 9. 

Sunday’s election redo will see seven candidates vie for votes. Former Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza is the candidate of the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV), Sergio Garrido (Acción Democrática) is running under the Mesa de Unidad Democrática platform, and Claudio Fermin is running under the Alianza Democrática ticket, along with four other candidates from smaller parties. 

According to polling by Delphos, opposition candidate Garrido is currently leading with 31.3 percent support, followed by Arreaza at 26.2 percent, and Fermin trailing with 5.5 percent. After disqualifying the MUD’s previous three proposed candidates, the Maduro government has taken additional steps to restrict the campaigning capacity of the MUD nominee, with local human rights group Fundación de Derechos Humanos de Los Llanos denouncing that the National Telecommunications Commission suspended Garrido’s public radio program on Monday. It appears that the government may be anticipating public demonstrations on Sunday, with more than 24,000 security officials deployed to Barinas this week according to the NGO Control Ciudadano, which notes this represents a federal security presence approximately 6 times larger than what is typical for Venezuelan elections.





Human Rights

  • Venezuelan electoral observation platform Guachiman Ciudadano reported that, by just 11:00 a.m. on November 21, the day of regional elections, there were 319 verified reports of electoral violations including political propaganda in and around voting centers, mechanical failures, violent acts and threats of violence against voters and journalists reporting on the elections.
  • On November 25, the Centro de Justicia y Paz (CEPAZ) reported that its Digital Observatory of Femicides documented a total of 235 femicides in Venezuela between January and October of 2021, and an additional 74 femicides of Venezuelan women outside of the country in the same time period.
  • In December, a new platform was launched by Venezuelan NGO PROMEDEHUM to raise visibility of the impact of Venezuela’s human rights and humanitarian crisis. The platform, called “Esto es el Post,” seeks to document the effects of the crisis on citizens’ daily lives that are often normalized and go unreported.