Venezuela, briefly open to an apparently fair election, backs down again

Venezuelan officials rescinded an invitation to the European Union to observe the upcoming July 28 presidential election, another clear sign that President Nicolás Maduro is unlikely to cede power despite allowing an opposition candidate to run against he.

After months of intensified repression by Maduro’s government, which banned legitimate rivals from participating in elections, jailed political opponents and cracked down on civil society, the country’s electoral authority surprised many in April when it allowed former diplomat Edmundo González will register as an opposition candidate. .

The Venezuelan government has been suffocated by US and European Union sanctions on the country’s vital oil industry, and some experts say Maduro allowed González to run only because it could help him influence Washington and its allies to relax. his politics. in the sorrows.

Council President Elvis Amoroso said in a television broadcast that he would rescind the invitation until the EU lifted “the unilateral coercive and genocidal sanctions imposed on our people.”

“It would be immoral to allow their participation knowing their neocolonialist and interventionist practices against Venezuela,” he added.

The EU said in a statement that it “deeply regrets the unilateral decision” of the electoral council and called on the government to reconsider its decision.

Venezuela’s economy imploded almost a decade ago, causing one of the largest global displacements in Latin American history: More than seven million Venezuelans have left the country, contributing to a wave of migrants northward that has become a dominant issue in the United States presidential campaign.

Three polls conducted within the country showed that the majority of respondents planned to vote for Mr. González. But there are widespread doubts that Maduro will allow such results to become public, or accept them if they do.

This year, the Maduro government has already arrested and imprisoned 10 members of the opposition. Five others have arrest warrants and are hiding in the Argentine embassy in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.

A proposal in the legislature would also allow the government to suspend the opposition campaign at any time. Many Venezuelans living abroad have been unable to register to vote due to costly and burdensome requirements.

Maduro, 61, is the political heir to Hugo Chávez’s socialist movement in Venezuela and has consolidated power since first winning office in 2013. He functionally controls the legislature, the military, the police, the justice system, the national electoral council, the country’s budget and a large part of the media, as well as violent paramilitary gangs called collectives.

He and his inner circle have also been accused of systematic human rights abuses that constitute crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and sexual violence.

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