Venezuelan government, allies and other groups propose more than 20 dates for presidential election

February 28, 2024  -CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s government, its allies and other groups on Wednesday announced a proposal on when to hold this year’s presidential election, suggesting more than 20 potential dates ranging from as soon as the last week of March through early December.

The proposal will be presented over the next few days to Venezuela’s ruling party-loyal National Electoral Council, whose members will choose the date. Should they pick a date before July 1, the government would be in violation of an agreement it signed in October with a faction of the opposition that called for the vote to take place in the second half of the year.

The document, which was drafted throughout February, does not mention any possible actions regarding the participation of candidates banned by the government from running for office, including President Nicolás Maduro’s strongest adversary this year, Maria Corina Machado. Machado won the primary held last year by the opposition faction known as the Unitary Platform and backed by the United States.

The draft document also calls for extending invitations to “technical missions” of national and international electoral observers as long as they “comply with strict respect for the Constitution, the law and applicable legal norms.” It also mentions a proposal to set “a financial support scheme” for political parties and candidates.

The last two items were included in an agreement signed in October in the Caribbean island of Barbados, but the proposal does not list the electoral observers who will be invited nor does it explain the funding scheme.

The Unitary Platform did not participate in any of the meetings to write the proposal held in the National Assembly, which were attended by representatives of the government and various political, social and religious organizations.

The platform did, however, meet last week with Maduro’s representatives with whom it has held negotiations since 2021 under the guidance of Norwegian diplomats.

Gerardo Blyde, chief negotiator for the platform, told reporters last week his faction presented his negotiating counterpart, National Assembly leader Jorge Rodríguez, and Norwegian diplomats two documents listing multiple violations of the Barbados agreement and acts of repression.

Machado on Monday said she was not invited to participate in meetings that led to the agreement.

Rodriguez told reporters Wednesday the proposal includes 27 possible dates. The document, which he said will be presented to the National Electoral Council as early as Friday, urges electoral authorities to announce a date no later than March 31.

Under the Barbados deal, Maduro and the opposition agreed to work on basic conditions for a fair election, hold the contest in the second half of 2024, invite electoral observers and create a process for aspiring presidential candidates to appeal bans keeping them from running for office. The agreement earned Maduro’s government some sanctions relief in the oil, gas and mining sectors.

But the U.S. government pulled back part of the sanctions relief in January, after the South American country’s highest court blocked Machado’s presidential candidacy.

“In my view, this agreement is the expansion of the Barbados agreement and replaces it,” Rodríguez said. “In other words, the Barbados agreement is a sub-set of this agreement that is much broader, much larger.”

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