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Venezuela Barring Opposition Candidate Sends Wrong Message

Venezuela’s move to bar a leading opposition candidate from holding office sends a message that Caracas is not willing to hold free and fair elections next year, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday during a visit to neighboring Guyana.

Maria Corina Machado, one of the favorites to win the Venezuelan opposition’s nomination for president in an October primary, was last week disqualified from holding public office for 15 years.

Washington, which has leveled sanctions against the government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro and called his 2018 re-election a “sham”, denounced the move, saying it deprived the Venezuelan people of basic political rights.

Blinken said during a news conference alongside Guyanese President Irfaan Ali on Thursday that the United States and countries in the region were focused on putting Venezuela “back on a democratic path.”

“There are a number of very practical steps that the regime in Caracas can take to demonstrate that it wants to move down that path toward free and fair elections,” Blinken said.

Machado’s disqualification “certainly sends the opposite message and is something that I think is deeply, deeply unfortunate,” he added.

Machado, a 55-year-old industrial engineer and former lawmaker, is leading polling for the 13-candidate primary, convened to select a unity candidate to face Maduro in a 2024 election.

The disqualification – which has already been imposed on some of her primary rivals – does not prevent her from running in the primary, which the opposition is organizing without state support, but does prevent her from registering for the general election.

Venezuela’s government on Saturday said it rejected the U.S. stance around the South American country’s upcoming elections, calling it “interference,” after the U.S. criticized the decision to disqualify Machado.

Source : US News