US blasts Maduro move to sideline opposition
The U.S. accused Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro on Dec. 11 of a dictatorial bid to wipe his opponents off the political map following his latest poll victory, after he announced the main opposition is barred from next year’s presidential election.
Maduro’s ruling socialists triumphed as expected in mayoral polls Dec. 10, taking 300 of the country’s 335 mayorships after a boycott by the main opposition parties.
But the president insisted that boycott would cost the opposition dearly: “A party that has not participated today and has called for the boycott of the elections cannot participate any more. That is a criterion of the National Constituent Assembly... and I support them.”
That removes from the electoral fray key figures such as Henrique Capriles, Leopoldo Lopez and others, and led the United States to say Maduro was seeking to consolidate his “dictatorship.”
“Maduro’s attempt to ban opposition parties from presidential elections is yet another extreme measure to close the democratic space in #Venezuela & consolidate power in his authoritarian dictatorship,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert tweeted.
“A presidential election cannot be legitimate if candidates and parties cannot freely participate,” she added in a statement.
The Venezuelan president based his assertion on the rules of the Constituent Assembly, a controversial Maduro-allied special powers legislature whose legitimacy has been widely questioned in the international community.
“If they don’t want elections, what are they doing? What’s the alternative? [Civil] war?” the president asked.
The main opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition has been battered by crushing defeats in regional and municipal polls and in-fighting over how to deal with Maduro, following months of violent protests that failed to unseat him and left 125 people dead.
The main parties in the coalition boycotted the mayoral polls, citing widespread fraud in the regional elections in October, and had set their sights on regrouping for the presidential election.