(Bloomberg) -- Nicolás Maduro will run for a third consecutive term as Venezuela’s president, the head of the National Assembly announced, ruling out other socialists candidates
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Maduro, 60, will carry the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela banner in the vote, Jorge Rodríguez told lawmakers Thursday. A date has yet to be set by the electoral authority, but Venezuela’s government has agreed with the opposition the country will go to the polls in the second half of 2024.
“We will have presidential elections with or without international observers,” Rodriguez said, “If they don’t want to come, then let them not come.”
Holding a free and fair vote is a key condition of an agreement Maduro and the opposition signed last year in Barbados. Shortly after the deal was announced in October, President Joe Biden’s administration temporarily eased US sanctions on the country’s oil and gold industries, leading to a modest reactivation of the economy.
The campaign will be the first contested by the major opposition parties since 2013. But the US has said it needs to see further commitments from Maduro if he wants the sanctions relief to continue.
A key step is allowing banned candidates to run after a review of their cases by the judiciary. María Corina Machado, who overwhelmingly won the opposition primary, is still waiting for a court decision on her ban from running for public office.
Without naming her, Rodriguez dismissed Machado’s potential run for president. “There is no way this woman can be candidate to any elections in Venezuela,” he said.
Maduro’s popularity is hovering at about 25%, according to Caracas-based pollster Delphos, near a record low heading into the campaign.
To stir nationalist sentiment ahead of the presidential election, Maduro has revived a long-dormant dispute with Guyana over the oil-rich Essequibo territory. Venezuela’s security apparatus has also upped pressure on members of the opposition and government critics, citing alleged conspiracies and plots against the regime.
Since assuming the presidency after his mentor Hugo Chavez died in 2013, Maduro has drawn condemnation from foreign leaders and human rights organizations. He is accused of winning election through fraud, stacking state institutions with allies, jailing critics and barring political opponents from running for office.
Under his tenure, some 7.1 million Venezuelans have fled the country’s cratering economy and chronically high inflation in one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. The collapse of the oil industry — the backbone of the economy and main source of government revenue — was worsened by sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump’s administration. The founding OPEC member is pumping nearly 800,000 barrels a day of oil, a sliver of its output from a decade ago.
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