Venezuela opposition leader slams 'maneuver' to block candidate

Corina Yoris (L) was chosen as a stand-in for opposition candidate Maria Corina Machado (R) in the July 28 presidential vote (Federico Parra)
Corina Yoris (L) was chosen as a stand-in for opposition candidate Maria Corina Machado (R) in the July 28 presidential vote (Federico Parra)

Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, banned from standing in this summer's presidential election, denounced on Saturday what she called a "maneuver" by the government to block her chosen representative from registering as a candidate.

Machado, 56, won an opposition primary last year but has been unsuccessful in overturning her ban on holding public office, and her coalition faces a Monday deadline to name a replacement candidate.

But as of Saturday, the opposition said attempts to access the National Electoral Council (CNE) website to register their chosen candidate, Corina Yoris, have been blocked.

"I am warning the people of Venezuela and the world about the maneuver underway to block the registration with the CNE of the candidate representing all united democrats of Venezuela," Machado said on X, formerly Twitter.

Machado has hailed Yoris, an 80-year-old former university professor who has not held office before, as "a person who has my full trust."

Yoris was part of the commission that organized opposition primaries in October that Machado easily won, unsettling President Nicolas Maduro's government with her surging popularity.

"Don't get dressed up, you're not going anywhere," Maduro quipped Friday during a broadcast that coincided with Machado announcing Yoris as her proxy.

Authorities this week arrested two of Machado's top campaign aides and announced warrants for seven others, accusing them of seeking to destabilize the country.

Maduro has governed Venezuela since 2013, presiding with military support even as severe economic contraction has spurred more than seven million of its citizens to flee the country.

Experts say Machado, with 70 percent approval ratings in some polls, may be able to transfer that support to the candidacy of her replacement in the July 28 election.

Machado says Maduro has violated an agreement signed by the government and opposition in Barbados last year, which promised to hold a free and fair vote in 2024 with international observers present.

That deal had led the United States to ease some sanctions on Venezuela -- a decision it is now reconsidering given Machado's continued exclusion from the ballot.

"Unfortunately (Maduro's victory) has already been decided, but I am still going to do everything I can to do something against this government," 37-year-old security guard Darwin Quintana told AFP.

Maduro, a former bus driver and political organizer, aspires to a third six-year term. The president came to power in 2013, after the death of Hugo Chavez, and gained a new term in 2018 in elections rejected as fraudulent by dozens of countries, including the United States.