A group of electoral observers from the European Union (EU) was in Venezuela monitoring the controversial regional elections of Nov. 21. However, after reports indicating possible corruption cases by the government, the regime decided to expel the mission members without even arguing its decision.
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry refused to extend their permits to stay in the country, and they are due to return to their respective European countries this weekend.
The group had previously agreed on a schedule of activities planned together with the Electoral Council and authorized by Maduro, which stipulated their stay in the country until Dec. 13. But tensions began to grow in the run-up to the elections when Maduro dismissed their findings and preliminary reports indicating corruption and irregularities in the regional elections.
Maduro accused the observers of being spies and used that pretext to send them back to their country, further tarnishing the credibility of the election results.
The European Union had managed to send a 130-member mission to Venezuela for the first time in 15 years to monitor the vote.
While most of the observers fulfilled their objectives and returned home, the group that remained was conducting interviews and following up on challenges to the electoral process by candidates and parties, and compiling information for a final report tentatively scheduled for release in early February.
The regional elections included one of the main bastions of socialist power in Venezuela, Barinas, the home state of the late dictator Hugo Chavez.
According to several reports, opposition candidate Freddy Superlano has suffered intense judicial persecution in an attempt to discredit and weaken him politically. In this context, the elections held on Nov. 21 resulted in a narrow victory in favor of the opposition candidate in an environment of many suspicions of corruption and distrust towards the Chavista government.
Approximately 8.15 million of the country’s 21 million registered voters cast ballots in more than 3,000 races, including gubernatorial and mayoral elections. The opposition lost the vast majority of the races.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court finally ruled Monday night that candidate Superlano should not have been on the Nov. 21 ballot because he had been disqualified by an administrative sanction imposed in August stemming from his work as a legislator between 2015 and 2020.
As a result, the Court ordered the National Electoral Council to set a special election for January 2022.
The EU mission’s preliminary report said the elections were marred by using public funds and other actions to benefit pro-government candidates and by the disqualification of opposition contenders.
These comments reportedly angered the regime authorities, who decided to expel the remaining observers from the country without comment.