We begin by taking a look at what the US State Department was constantly saying less than a year ago. We could equally document the statements of the OAS and its secretary Luis Almagro, the Venezuelan opposition, US-allied regional governments, or the mainstream media. But it is easier to just go to the source. Sadly, when it comes to Venezuela, none of the mainstream actors and media will deviate from the State Department.
As violent opposition protests raged on in the Spring of 2017, there were repeated calls for immediate elections:
“President Maduro […] should hold elections as soon as possible.” (March 29)
“We call for the government of Venezuela to […] hold elections as soon as possible” (March 30)
“We […] echo the Venezuelan people’s calls for prompt elections” (April 10)
“We call again upon the Government of Venezuela to […] hold prompt elections” (April 18)
“It’s the Venezuelan people who should decide Venezuela’s future, which is why we once again call on the Venezuelan authorities to promptly hold free, fair, and transparent elections.” (May 2)
“…what people are asking for today, which is for national presidential elections to restore legitimacy to whomever might rule Venezuela moving forward.” (May 30)
US officials were adamant that elections were the only legitimate way forward.
“How is legitimacy defined in a democracy? Through elections.” (May 30)
“At the end of the day, it’s all about consensus. It’s about finding a way forward for Venezuelans to depolarize their situation, and the best way to do that is through elections.” (May 30)
“Venezuela needs consensus. It needs a genuine consensus or at least a legitimate path forward. That’s what elections provide.” (June 19)
So what happened since then to make the US no longer believe that elections should be held tomorrow? Maduro made a bold gambit of calling elections for a Constituent Assembly to solve the country’s problems. The Venezuelan opposition decided not to participate and vowed to stop those elections from taking place. They miserably failed, and on July 30 over 8 million people voted in what was a remarkable show of strength by chavismo.
From that point both the opposition and the US were trapped, unable to move on from their blunder. And soon cracks started to open. After months of violent protests claiming that the “dictatorship” was about to be overthrown, the opposition then turned to its supporters and asked them to go and vote in regional elections. The result was a disaster, with chavismo winning 18 out of 23 states. The opposition could not muster more than the usual vacuous claims of fraud, and then (mostly) boycotted the December municipal elections, which resulted in a chavista sweep of over 90% of the municipalities.
With the political momentum on its side, the government decided to schedule presidential elections for April 22. According to Jorge Rodríguez, head of the government’s delegation in the Dominican Republic dialogue, this date was agreed with the opposition MUD representatives. But with opposition figures more discredited than ever the US decided to pre-emptively unrecognise the vote, simply because an opposition victory is far from guaranteed.