Pence Demands That Venezuela Suspend `So-Called' Elections

(Bloomberg) -- Vice President Mike Pence called on Venezuela to suspend its presidential election later this month because of corruption concerns, declaring that the results would be fraudulent.

The Trump administration joined the European Union in calling on Venezuela to postpone the May 20 election without assurances it will be a free and fair contest. President Nicolas Maduro is seeking a second six-year term, and opposition lawmakers have said security forces have physically threatened them and their supporters.

Maduro, Pence said in a speech to the Organization of American States, “promised people he would restore prosperity but delivered only deep poverty. He promised renewed greatness but he has only brought that nation suffering.”

“The so-called elections in Venezuela scheduled for May 20 will be nothing more than a fraud and a sham,” Pence said. “There will be no real election in Venezuela on May 20 and the world knows it.”

The U.S. also announced new sanctions on three Venezuelans, including Pedro Luis Martin Olivares, a former intelligence official under indictment in Florida on drug trafficking charges, and 20 companies the Treasury Department said were connected to the targeted Venezuelans. The three men were sanctioned under a U.S. law targeting drug kingpins.

Elections in Venezuela are traditionally held in December, but the country’s National Electoral Council scheduled the contest for spring -- a move critics say aims to take advantage of divisions within the opposition. The U.S. State Department has said not all political parties have agreed to the elections, limiting the ability of individuals to run.

The U.S. continues to weigh whether to ban imports of Venezuelan oil, which accounts for 95 percent of the country’s foreign-currency earnings. Venezuela, a founding member of OPEC, has the world’s largest proven reserves and is South America’s largest oil exporter. It is the third-largest source of U.S. imported oil.

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