Venezuela calls for July elections amid escalating repression

(Bloomberg) – Venezuela will hold presidential elections in July to set the stage for re-election of Nicolas Maduro, his main rival remains ousted from office, the country said on Tuesday.

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Much remains at stake regarding the country’s crucial vote scheduled for July 28, including whether credible opposition candidates will be allowed to participate and whether international observers will accept or be allowed to monitor. It remains undecided.

In response to the announcement, President Maduro said, “The electoral commission has held discussions.” “We are going to a presidential election, and I am confident that our people will fight the battle and win big again.”

The move comes amid a growing crackdown on Venezuela’s opposition, including a ban on leading candidate María Colina Machado from participating in the election, prompting the United States to impose sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run gold producers. and threatened further action on oil and gas production.

Read more: Venezuela ignores US-brokered deal, sets new voting conditions

Machado, on the other hand, remained undaunted and resolute.

“I have been given a mandate to lead this country to clean and free elections, and I am determined to see this through to the end,” she said in a post to X.

The US says Venezuela must allow opposition parties and candidates to vote and release more political prisoners ahead of April or face six-month lapse in oil and gas licenses. He said it would be.

Candidates must register by March 25, giving Machado and the opposition less than three weeks to negotiate with the Maduro government on whether to include her in the election or for the opposition to accept a candidate to replace her. .

Elvis Amoroso, head of the electoral commission, said on Tuesday that Venezuelans must register to vote by April 16.

Eurasia Group analyst Lisa Grice Targow said the short deadline would prevent reliable international monitoring and updates to the electoral register.

“The deadline for candidate registration on March 25th is likely to lead to opposition discussions over a replacement candidate for Maria Colina Machado, but whether an agreement can be reached on strategy and candidates is likely. is still an open question,” said Grice Thalgaud.

Now that the date has been set, Maduro is widely expected to formally announce his candidacy for a third consecutive term. National Assembly President Jorge Rodríguez had previously said Mr Maduro would carry the flag of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela at the polls.

(Updates with comment from Maduro in third paragraph and comment from Machado in sixth paragraph.)

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