Venezuela: Impoverished Citizens Crowd Polling Stations In Hope Of Prize Promised By President Nicolas Maduro

The government has set up ‘red point’ zones near polling stations so Venezuelans can scan their state-issued cards used to receive benefits. Critics say the scheme is akin to vote-buying.

Impoverished Venezuelans scanned their state-issued cards used to receive benefits, like money transfers and food boxes, at so called “red point” zones near polling stations, Reuters news agency reported today.

These “red point” zones have been set up by the Venezuelan government.

Millions of Venezuelans depend on food rations and money transfers, due to shortages and hyperinflation. Maduro has promised a “really good prize” to those who scan their cards.

Maduro’s critics say this is a way of intimidating voters into supporting his government and akin to vote-buying.

Construction worker Josue Valecillos told Reuters volunteers scanned his card on a phone, vowing a quick transfer of 10 million bolivars, the equivalent of $13 at the black market rate.

A volunteer said voters who scanned their cards could get a bank transfer of five million bolivars.

Leftist Maduro is expected to win the re-election in a landslide, thanks to a ban on two of his most popular rivals, a loyalist electoral council, and the heavy use of government resources.

Although likely to win, Maduro might face backlash from the international community. “Sham elections change nothing,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted.

According to Reuters, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said the Trump administration would not recognize the election and was considering sanctions. The vote could trigger more censure from Latin America and the European Union as well.

Just two days before the election, on May 18, 2018, the Trump administration announced sanctions against a powerful Venezuelan politician, the New York Times noted.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in Washington said that it had placed the politician, Diosdado Cabello, on a list of sanctioned individuals.

Mr. Cabello was accused of drug trafficking, embezzling government money, extortion, and money laundering. His assets in the United States were frozen, and American citizens barred from doing business with him.

Cabello is, according to the NYT, the second most powerful politician in Venezuela, after Nicolas Maduro. A top Socialist Party figure, he runs the government agency in charge of customs and taxation and his wife is the minister of tourism.

The timing of these sanctions, however, could energize Mr. Maduro’s voting base, the NYT noted. In the nucleus of Maduro’s rhetoric is blaming Venezuela’s economic problems on economic wars directed by the United States.

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