Venezuela Rebuked as Opposition Fights to Register Candidate

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s leading opposition candidate suggested that Nicolás Maduro’s government is blocking the election registration of legitimate challengers to the president, prompting criticism from Argentina and other Latin American nations.

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The country’s two remaining opposition parties have faced technical difficulties as they’ve tried to register candidates via Venezuela’s automated system, Corina Yoris said during a Monday webcast. If she were unable to officially register before a midnight deadline, it would likely pave the way for Maduro’s all-but-certain reelection in the July 28 vote.

“The system cannot be accessed and we have exhausted all the means at our disposal so that this can be resolved,” said Yoris, who was chosen last week to replace banned candidate María Corina Machado on the ballot.

The opposition group requested an extension of the registry period, which was later rejected by the electoral authority.

“The parties’ presentation of their candidates ends today,” the electoral council’s President Elvis Amoroso said in the afternoon, while receiving the ruling party and Maduro as the last step in his registry process.

Yoris’s remarks prompted the governments of seven Latin American nations to call on Venezuela to allow the opposition parties to register candidates.

“This situation, together with the previous disqualifications that have been in the public domain, raises questions about the integrity and transparency of the electoral process as a whole,” the countries said in a joint statement released by Argentina’s foreign affairs ministry.

Uruguay, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay and Peru also signed the document. Brazil and Colombia — whose leftist leaders Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Gustavo Petro have been reticent to criticize Maduro — were absent from the list.

The latest difficulties follow a series of autocratic actions by the Maduro regime, including the ratification of Machado’s ban from seeking public office and the issuance of arrest orders against her closest allies.

They also increase pressure on the Biden administration, which has said it would reimpose oil and gas sanctions if Maduro doesn’t take concrete steps toward a fair vote by April. Venezuela has repeatedly flouted the electoral agreement it reached with the opposition last year, but the US has so far avoided a full reinstatement of the sanctions it previously had in place.

Dozens of parties have been able to register candidates, including Maduro and other little-known allies and opposition dissidents.

The president formalized his candidacy before the electoral authority Monday afternoon. “On July 28 there will be elections, with you or without you,” Maduro said, referring to the opposition.

Separately, Venezuela’s Public Prosecutor Tarek William Saab said in his X account Monday evening that two armed men were arrested a few feet away from the stage were Maduro was to meet his followers before going to the electoral authority’s headquarters in Caracas.

According to Saab’s post on X, Jerry Ostos and Carlos Castillo confessed that they were activists from Machado’s Vente Venezuela party. They are being accused of attempted murder, terrorism, among other charges, Saab said. The plot was first disclosed by ruling party campaign official Nahum Fernandez and then confirmed by Maduro after formalizing his candidacy.

Much about the presidential vote remains uncertain. The government said it had invited eight international observation groups to oversee the vote, including the Carter Center, the European Union, and the United Nations, but none has yet confirmed attendance.

(Updates with Amoroso comments starting in fourth, and Saab’s comments starting 13th paragraph.)

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