Venezuela Talks Deadlocked Over Proposed Election Delay

Talks between a Venezuelan opposition faction and the government of President Nicolas Maduro are deadlocked over whether to delay upcoming congressional elections, according to five people with knowledge of the matter.

Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles and his allies are calling for the delay to allow monitors from the European Union to attend.

Maduro approved the presence of foreign observers, but wants the election to go ahead in December as scheduled, arguing that holding the vote next year would violate the constitution, three of the people said.

The segment of the the opposition led by National Assembly President Juan Guaido, and backed by the U.S., isn’t taking part in the talks and is calling for a boycott of the election.

Venezuela Talks Deadlocked Over Proposed Election Delay

Without a delay, monitors from the E.U. wouldn’t have the minimum six months they require to prepare for the event. Opposition negotiators want to do whatever it takes to get the E.U. involved, to ensure that the vote is fair.

The opposition group led by Capriles is reaching out to individual E.U. member states to ask if they’d oversee the vote separately, the people said.

After the socialist Maduro won an election widely regarded as sham in 2018, the U.S. and its allies recognized Guaido as the legitimate president. The nation’s politics have been in a stalemate over the last year as Maduro clung onto power despite U.S sanctions designed to topple him.

That’s lead some sections of the opposition, including Capriles, to seek ways to break the impasse. Capriles has claimed the credit for a presidential decree that pardoned political prisoners this week, in a gesture intended to kick-start talks.

“The E.U. and Capriles believe that Guaido and the United States’ strategy for a sudden government change has not worked,” said Washington-based analyst Mariano De Alba.

The E.U. press team in Brussels didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.

Free and Fair

Guaido has criticized Capriles’ meetings with Maduro’s representatives, saying they don’t have the National Assembly’s approval. A meeting between Guaido, Capriles and the main opposition party heads on Tuesday over how to proceed ended without agreement, according to four people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Venezuela Talks Deadlocked Over Proposed Election Delay

Guaido says he should remain in charge of the National Assembly after December, since the election to choose new lawmakers will be rigged and illegitimate.

“Constructive dialog has formed a series of broad guarantees that make up an inclusive, participatory and fair electoral process,” Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in reply to written questions. “We believe that the electoral accompaniment of the E.U. and the UN Secretary General will verify that the parliamentary election will be carried out in an ideal and clean manner.”

Maduro’s offer of electoral guarantees were probably intended to further divide the opposition, said Caracas-based analyst Luis Vicente Leon.

“Maduro’s government is willing to concede some of Capriles demands,” Leon said. “They may underestimate the possibility of him becoming an actual threat.”

Turkish Support

The talks between the government and some of its opponents have garnered support from Turkey, whose Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he had spoken to Capriles on the question of election observers. Spain’s government has expressed its support for the talks as well.

The E.U.’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, is also backing the negotiations, four of the people said. Borrell said this week the prisoner release was a step toward “free, inclusive and transparent elections.” He didn’t respond to requests for additional comment.

In the meantime, Venezuelans’ lives continue to be blighted by widespread hunger following a seven-year recession, a slump in oil output to levels not seen since the 1940s, and the pandemic.

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