Venezuelan officials are threatening to suspend next year’s presidential elections unless the United States drops financial sanctions against the struggling South American nation.
In an appearance on state-run VTV television, Information Minister Jorge Rodríguez also said ongoing talks with a faction of the opposition were dead in the water as long as Washington keeps its stranglehold on the Venezuelan economy.
“Venezuela will not have an electoral event, and we won’t sign any agreement with the opposition in Venezuela until these crude sanctions are lifted,” Rodríguez said during an interview Monday, which was picked up by local media. He also accused Venezuela’s opposition of lobbying Washington, Canada and Spain to isolate the country.
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In recent months, Washington has slapped sanctions on 30 Venezuelan government officials, including President Nicolás Maduro. In August, it went a step further, restricting Venezuela’s ability to borrow money from American creditors — a move that makes it difficult for Caracas to renegotiate its debts, and has pushed it closer to default.
On Tuesday, the Miami-based advocacy group Politically Persecuted Venezuelans in Exile (VEPPEX) called Rodríguez’s statement political “blackmail” and asked the international community not to fall into the trap.
“We urge and ask the international community to maintain and intensify the sanctions against Maduro’s regime to suffocate and isolate him,” the group said in a statement. “The sanctions should only be withdrawn or reduced when Maduro’s exit from power has been accomplished [along with] the kleptocracy that accompanies him.”
This is the first time the socialist administration has suggested it might suspend the presidential election.
Last week, Vice President Tareck El Aissami confirmed that Maduro would seek reelection next year. And many analysts believe that Maduro — who came to power after the death of Hugo Chávez in 2013 — is the current front-runner, as leading opponents have either been jailed or sidelined, and the opposition coalition, known as the MUD, is in disarray.
Rodríguez’s statements come as the country is preparing for municipal elections on Sunday and as opposition and government representatives have been meeting in the Dominican Republic to try to find solutions for the country’s political, economic and humanitarian problems.
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