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Venezuela Calls for July Election Amid Increased Repression

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(Bloomberg) — Venezuela said it will hold presidential elections in July, setting the stage for Nicolás Maduro’s reelection as his main rival remains banned from public office.

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Much about the nation’s crucial vote, set for July 28, remains undecided: such as whether credible opposition candidates will be allowed to participate or whether international observers will accept or be allowed to monitor.

“The electoral council has spoken,” Maduro said following the announcement. “We are going to presidential elections, and I am sure that the people will fight their battle and will once again win a great victory.”

The move comes amid increased repression of Venezuela’s opposition, including the banning of leading candidate María Corina Machado from taking part in the election, which led the US to reinstate sanctions on Venezuela’s state gold producer and threaten with further actions on oil and gas production.

Read More: Venezuela Flouts US-Brokered Deal and Sets New Vote Terms

Machado, for her part, remained undaunted and resolute.

“I received a mandate to lead this country to clean and free elections,” she said in a post on X. “I am committed to seeing this through to the end.”

The US has said Venezuela must allow opposition parties and candidates to participate in the vote and release more political prisoners ahead of April, or else it would allow a six-month oil and gas license to expire.

Candidates will have until March 25 to register, allowing Machado and the opposition a little under three weeks to negotiate with the Maduro regime for her to be included in the election or for the opposition to accept a replacement candidate.

Venezuelans will have until April 16 to register to vote, the head of the electoral council, Elvis Amoroso, said on Tuesday.

The short time line will impede credible international observation and updating the electoral registry, said Eurasia Group analyst Risa Grais-Targow.

“The March 25th candidate registration deadline will likely force an opposition debate around alternatives to María Corina Machado, but it’s still an open question as to whether they will be able to reach consensus on a strategy and candidate,” Grais-Targow said.

Now that a date has been set, Maduro is widely expected to officially announce his candidacy for a third consecutive term. National Assembly President Jorge Rodríguez has previously said Maduro will carry the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela banner in the vote.

(Updates with Maduro’s comments in third, Machado in sixth paragraph.)

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