Venezuela revokes invitation for European Union mission to observe presidential election in July

Venezuela’s electoral authorities have revoked an invitation to a European Union mission to observe the upcoming presidential election in July
FILE - A Bolivarian Militia member stands on guard next to a banner of the National Electoral Council (CNE) where people can register to vote in the presidential election in Caracas, Venezuela, April 16, 2024. On May 28, 2024, Venezuela’s electoral authorities revoked an invitation for a European Union mission to observe the country's July 28 presidential election. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

FILE - A Bolivarian Militia member stands on guard next to a banner of the National Electoral Council (CNE) where people can register to vote in the presidential election in Caracas, Venezuela, April 16, 2024. On May 28, 2024, Venezuela’s electoral authorities revoked an invitation for a European Union mission to observe the country's July 28 presidential election. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's electoral authorities on Tuesday revoked an invitation for a European Union mission to observe the country's upcoming presidential election, in which President Nicolás Maduro is seeking reelection.

The head of the National Electoral Council, Elvis Amoroso, cited economic sanctions imposed by the 27-nation bloc as the reason for withdrawing the invitation. The EU had not yet accepted the invite that was extended earlier this year.

Amoroso said Tuesday's decision is intended to show that EU representatives “are not welcome to come here to our country while the genocidal sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and especially its government, are maintained.”

The bloc, however, only maintains sanctions against more than 50 Venezuelans accused of acts of repression or efforts to undermine democracy, but not against the government as a whole.

The announcement came two weeks after the EU temporarily lifted sanctions against four officials linked to the electoral body, including Amoroso, in recognition of the steps taken ahead of the July 28 election. But the relief was vehemently rejected by Venezuela's government and Amoroso, who argued it was selective and insufficient.

An EU statement called on the National Electoral Council to reconsider its decision.

“The Venezuelan people should be able to choose their next president in credible, transparent and competitive elections, supported by international observation, including that of the European Union, which has a long and distinguished record of independent and impartial observation,” said the statement posted on the platform X.

Venezuela's electoral body earlier this year set the presidential election for July 28 and extended invitations to various organizations to observe the contest. Those decisions fulfilled some of the provisions of an agreement signed last year between Maduro's government and the U.S.-backed Unitary Platform opposition coalition.

Under the agreement signed in the Caribbean island of Barbados, both sides vowed to work toward improving conditions for a free and fair election. Still, Venezuela's government continuously tested the limits of the accord, by, among other actions, blocking the candidacy of the president's chief opponent, María Corina Machado.

Machado, a former lawmaker, won the coalition's October presidential primary with more than 90% of support. But the country's top court in January affirmed an administrative decision blocking her candidacy. Her chosen substitute was barred from the ballot, too.

Machado and the coalition are now backing former diplomat Edmundo González Urrutia.

The U.S. granted Venezuela's government relief from economic sanctions after the agreement was signed in Barbados. But it has since clawed it back as hopes for a democratic opening fade.

In 2021, the EU accepted the invitation of Venezuelan officials to send a mission to observe regional elections that included gubernatorial and mayoral races. The mission concluded that the contest happened under better conditions compared to the country's elections in recent years but was marred by the use of public funds to benefit pro-government candidates.

Election anomalies cited by the mission included delays in opening and closing voting centers, disproportionately favorable coverage for the ruling party on state television and the use of free food and other goods as political tools, among others.

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