Texas Tech University

Latin American Politics Expert Available to Discuss Venezuelan, Colombian Elections

Glenys Young

May 21, 2018

Iñaki Sagarzazu specializes in Venezuelan politics and how institutions’ roles in politics affect individual voters.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro won a second term Sunday (May 20) in an internationally controversial election that critics say was rigged in his favor, and the consequences may be much farther reaching.

Amid one of the Western Hemisphere's worst economic crises in recent history – inflation could reach 13,000 percent this year – huge numbers of economic refugees are leaving Venezuela for neighboring Colombia, which could affect Columbia's presidential election this coming weekend (May 27).

Iñaki Sagarzazu
Iñaki Sagarzazu

Iñaki Sagarzazu is an assistant professor in the Texas Tech University Department of Political Science who specializes in Venezuelan politics and how institutions' roles in politics affect individual voters. His research has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, the British Journal of Political Science, Political Behavior, West European Politics, Political Science Research & Methods, Latin American Politics & Society and Policy Studies Journal, as well as in several book chapters in edited volumes. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Latin American politics and political communications. Sagarzazu sometimes posts his political analyses on Twitter and his blog. He is fluent in both English and Spanish.

Expert

Iñaki Sagarzazu, assistant professor of political science,(832) 230-6021 or inaki.sagarzazu@ttu.edu

Talking points

  • Venezuela:
    • Venezuela's elections cannot be considered free and fair under typical criteria because major opposition leaders were in exile or being persecuted, and opposition parties were banned from participating.
    • Several irregularities were reported, and the two main alternative candidates complained about the lack of transparency in the process, with one calling the election fraudulent.
    • The elections were not recognized by the international community, and major countries in the Americas – including the United States – and the European Union called for the elections to be cancelled and properly called. The United States and many countries in the region have said they will not recognize the results.
    • The elections had the lowest turnout of a presidential election ever, with less than half of registered voters participating.
  • Colombia:
    • Colombia's incumbent president has hit his term limit, and his party has no candidate.
    • The elections have, as a backdrop, the peace agreement signed between the current administration and the guerilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People's Army (FARC) organization that ended the longest civil war in the world.
    • This agreement, among other things, allows the participation of FARC members in elections together with some elements of transitional justice. While the FARC's presidential candidate withdrew due to health reasons, the group's closeness to the Venezuelan regime and the current crisis in Venezuela – which is seeing a massive exodus of citizens, a significant group of whom are simply crossing the border to neighboring Colombia – are fueling both an anti-left, anti-peace process rhetoric on the right and a populist message from the left.
    • This has somewhat polarized the electorate. Expected to advance to the second round are a left-wing populist and a right-wing populist who is a member of former President Alvaro Uribe's party. Centrist candidates, who have been unable to coordinate a formula to confront these two extremes, hope the polls are wrong and one of the centrists can advance.