Christie Neufeldt, Latin America Partnerships staff of The United Church of Canada, participated in a seven-person International Commission representing churches and ecumenical organizations from Latin America, the Caribbean, the United States and Canada. Together with colleagues from the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela (UEPV) and assisted by the Venezuelan Human Rights Organization, SURES, the group observed that Venezuela’s December six legislative elections were conducted in a democratic, free, and peaceful manner.
Given the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, the international observer team worked through Zoom to accompany and observe in real-time during three moments of polling day (morning, noon, and closing of elections). While recognizing the limitations of this type of observation; through testimony of the Venezuelan churches and with SURES’s help, the Commission obtained first-hand information of the entire electoral process. The Commission was also able to interview other entities working on human rights in the country observing the election, such as the Venezuelan Association of Jurists.
The Commission calls for peace, dialogue, and respect for the free self-determination of the Venezuelan people and rejects the promotion of violence and interference by external factors in Venezuelan life. It questions calls for abstention and non-participation in this process from specific sectors of the opposition to the current government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. “In the absence of specific findings that question its suitability, we understand that the electoral process is the best way to respect the Venezuelan people’s free and sovereign will.”
In 2018, then Latin America Partnerships staff for The United Church of Canada, Jim Hodgson, travelled to Venezuela to act as an observer in the country’s presidential elections. Responding to rising political tensions, the United Church encouraged both sides in the political crisis in to begin an earnest dialogue to resolve the situation with an internally made solution and not resort to foreign intervention.