Maduro Ally Says Venezuelan Opposition Violated Election Deal

(Bloomberg) -- A senior Venezuelan official accused the opposition of reporting an “inflated” number of votes in Sunday’s primary, thereby violating a deal that led to US sanctions being eased.

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National Assembly President Jorge Rodríguez said the government will request an urgent meeting with opposition leaders and the Norwegian mediators to review a recently-signed agreement, which was announced last week following talks in Barbados.

The opposition has yet to issue a final vote count from its primary on Sunday. With two thirds of ballots counted as of Monday evening, former lawmaker María Corina Machado was on course for a overwhelming victory, with more than 90% of the vote. The organizers projected participation of nearly two million people.

Read More: Machado Holds 93% Lead in Venezuelan Primary Vote Count Update

The primary’s organizers haven’t yet responded to the government’s accusations, though they scheduled a press conference for Wednesday to address the matter. The organizing committee didn’t immediately reply to a written request for comment.

While Rodríguez said the government would continue talks with the opposition as it reviews the vote, his accusations could potentially sour the breakthrough agreement intended to ensure a more competitive presidential race next year.

The government of President Nicolás Maduro is under pressure from Washington to allow a fair 2024 presidential election in return for an easing of crippling economic sanctions. Even so, his government tried to sabotage the primary, including by blocking a website Sunday that told citizens where to cast their ballots.

As a goodwill gesture following the agreement, the US Treasury issued a six-month license authorizing transactions involving Venezuelan oil and gas. It also lifted a ban on secondary trading of some Venezuelan sovereign bonds and debt and equity issued by the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

In a TV program on Monday, Maduro said he had proof the opposition has committed fraud during the primary.

--With assistance from Nicolle Yapur and Fabiola Zerpa.

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