(Bloomberg) -- Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski says his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro, is “not welcome” at this year’s Summit of the Americas in Lima, amid growing international outcry over the decision to hold snap presidential elections amid a deepening economic and social crisis.
Kuczynski cited a rupture in the democratic order in Venezuela late Tuesday evening in his decision to rescind Maduro’s invitation, adding that he counted on the support of a dozen regional leaders. Hours before, the so-called Lima group, which is comprised of nations such as Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Canada, issued a rebuke of the upcoming April 22 vote, saying it “will lack all legitimacy and credibility" and demanded the date be changed.
Venezuela abruptly set elections last week following a breakdown in official talks with opposition leaders to diffuse the country’s bitter political fight, which led to bloody street protests last year. While Maduro’s opponents had been petitioning for a date that would provide ample time to elect new electoral authorities and invite international observers, the ruling socialists did exactly the opposite and accelerated elections under current conditions.
The opposition now accuses Maduro of trying to rig a vote he cannot win as the country suffers the worst economic crisis in living memory, marked my quadruple-digit inflation and chronic food shortages. Maduro is seeking to win another six-year term after taking over from the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez in 2013.
Tens of thousands of Venezuelans are pouring over the country’s borders to neighboring Colombia, Brazil and even Caribbean islands to escape the economic meltdown.
“Maduro knows that in competitive and free elections the people would vote against an administration that brought hyperinflation, hunger, reoccurring deaths due to the lack of medicines,” congressman Julio Borges, said in a statement posted on Twitter Wednesday. Borges, who led Venezuela’s opposition delegation in the talks, added that he would tour the region in coming days to demand free and fair elections.
Last week, Maduro confirmed his attendance at the Summit of the Americas slated for April 13 and 14 last week after receiving the official invite from the Peruvian government.
The Venezuelan government has faced growing international condemnation in recent months for alleged rights abuses and allegations of electoral fraud. The U.S. has sanctioned dozens of top government officials -- including Maduro himself -- accusing the ruling socialists of pushing the South American towards one-man rule.
A number of countries including the U.S. and Colombia have already stated they will not recognize the results of April’s presidential election. The opposition has yet to announce a unified strategy on whether the various parties will take part by holding a primary to select a single candidate or opt to abstain.
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