It’s still too early to say who won in Venezuela’s farcical referendum to give its socialist President Nicolas Maduro dictatorial powers. But we already know the name of one loser: Jose Felix Pineda, who was running for a seat in the so-called Constituent Assembly, was shot to death before the polls opened Sunday.
Pineda was just one of thousands of candidates trying to get elected to the Assembly, which will essentially replace Venezuela’s established congress –controlled by Maduro opponents – and do the president’s bidding.
It was an inauspicious start for an election that most Venezuelans don’t recognize as valid. The president’s many political enemies – 80 percent have told pollsters they do not support him – have organized a boycott of the balloting. Even candidate Celia Flores, who is both a sure winner and loser since she is married to Maduro, had to beg supporters to come to the polling booths to get her elected.
This sham election is the result of Maduro’s shameful unwillingness to admit his is a failed presidency. Since assuming power from the charismatic, maniacal Hugo Chavez in 2013, Maduro has overseen Venezuela’s descent into economic ruin. The average Venezuelan has lost 14 pounds since he took office, and not because of some new diet craze. There simply is not enough food to feed the country that once boasted South America’s highest standard of living.
Maduro himself took the coward’s way out on election day, showing up at 6 a.m., long before protesters were filling the streets. He and Flores snuck in and out of a polling booth in west Caracas. Later, not far away, national guard troops wearing body armor fired shots at protesters who blocked roadways.
President Trump has warned that the United States will not stand by and let chaos rule the country.
President Trump has warned that the United States will not stand by and let chaos rule the country. The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a dozen or so of Maduro’s known supporters, a move intended to rob the president of what little political base he has left. Predictably, Maduro blames the U.S. for the sad state of his country when a look in the mirror would reveal the real culprit.
Aside from Cuba, Iran and North Korea, Venezuela has few friends around the world. It is the inevitable result of imposing radical socialism on a country that doesn’t believe in it.
Maduro’s referendum will turn out the way he wants. Still, it’s not the result Jose Pineda was hoping for. Instead of running for office, he should have been running for his life.
So should Maduro.
John Moody is Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News. A former Rome bureau chief for Time magazine, he is the author of four books including “Pope John Paul II : Biography.“