A Conversation with Tibisay Lucena Ramírez

Amid uncertainty surrounding the health of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who is also a candidate in next year’s elections, the president of the Venezuelan National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena discussed the upcoming electoral contest at an event hosted by the Inter-American Dialogue on October 11.

Lucena highlighted progress made by the National Electoral Council in expanding minority access to electoral processes in Venezuela. According to Lucena, “some groups were discriminated against in the past, such as indigenous people, [particularly] those living in rural and semi-urban areas.” She added that in 2011, the National Electoral Council will open 1,463 new polling stations, bringing elections “closer to the voters.”

Yet during the discussion, participants’ main concern was about the role of the National Electoral Council in complying with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling to allow Leopoldo López to run as a presidential candidate. Lucena denied that complying with the IACHR ruling was the responsibility of the National Electoral Council, claiming that they had to wait for the decision of the Venezuelan Supreme Court before admitting López as a candidate.

Participants also questioned whether the National Electoral Council would invite international observers to monitor next year’s elections. Lucena stated that the Venezuelan system only admits what they define as “accompaniment,” arguing that “we call upon people that we consider to have the credentials to observe the process, and we invite them.” She noted that Venezuela stopped inviting the Organization of American States and the Carter Center after 2006. Lucena compared Venezuela to Argentina, which has also rejected election observers.

Participants also commented that high-ranking military officials have recently stated that they would not recognize the results of the elections if the opposition won. Lucena responded that the armed forces have always expressed that they are “subordinate to the National Electoral Council” and praised their cooperation in past elections. However, she did not clarify whether the National Electoral Council would condemn the statements.

Lucena highlighted the confidence that both the opposition and the government candidates have placed in the results provided by the National Electoral Council. As a testament to this trust, she cited the National Electoral Council‘s offer of technical assistance to the Mesa de la Unidad, a platform that brings together opposition leaders during their primary elections in February 2012.

Watch the full recording of this event here


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