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Venezuela votes in regional elections under international scrutiny

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) A split Venezuelan opposition found itself in a well-known territory Monday after losing an overwhelming majority of the races discussed in the regional election the day before. But divisions over how to move forward from their expected defeat and achieve their goal of toppling President Nicols Maduro have never been so apparent.

The controversy extends to the very act of voting, with one of its most prominent leaders, bypassing polls Sunday, when more than 3,000 offices, including posts for mayors and governors, were contested in the troubled South American country. . Opposition parties eventually won three governorships, but by working together, they had once won twice that number.

“Today marks the beginning of a new phase in the work of rebuilding, reuniting the democratic alternative in Venezuela, strengthening and clarifying the objectives that have united us all these years, and taking on the responsibilities that need to be taken at this time,” Guan told reporters. , leader of the US-backed opposition faction. This is not the time to fight between the parties, this is not the time for clashes between the egos of political leaders, this is the time for reflection, unification and work for Venezuelans.

Guaid, like millions of other Venezuelans, did not vote in regional competitions. The National Electoral Council said about 42.3%, or approximately 8.15 million, of the 21 million registered voters in the country voted.

Sunday marked the return of major opposition parties to the race, which they had boycotted since 2017, arguing that the country lacks the conditions for fair and free elections, a message Guaid reiterated on Monday. The main ones agreed to run in the election as part of negotiations already suspended with the Maduros government.

The dialogue between Maduro and his opponents also led to the presence of more than 130 international observers, mostly from the European Union, during the elections. They rushed across the country to look at electoral conditions such as justice, access to the media, campaign activities and the disqualification of candidates.

Hospital employee Pedro Martinez, 56, said he understood why few people were queuing at the polling station in an eastern Caracas neighborhood that usually votes against Maduro and his allies: Opposition leaders fight among themselves.

This split in the opposition leads to few people (voting), Martinez said. The opposition must work hard to gain the trust of the people.

The results showed pro-government candidate Carmen Melndez, a former defense minister, as the winner of the race for mayor of Caracas, the capital.

In neighboring Miranda, which is of high strategic value to the opposition, pro-government governor Hctor Rodrgguez was re-elected with more than 396,000 votes. That’s about 60,600 more than his closest contender, opposition candidate David Uzcategui. The number of votes among the various candidates from the official alliance exceeded the votes in favor of Rodrgguez, a close associate of Maduro.

Opposition candidates were elected governors of the central state of Cojeda, the island state of Nueva Esparta and Zulia. At best, by running as a bloc, the opposition won six governorships and 76 mayors in 2008 and 2013, respectively.

The election strategy is now more limited to the opposition, said Jacqueline Mazza, a senior professor of Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University. I think the question for the opposition now is that, in the current conditions, returning after boycotting two of them, what will they do in two years? Because they can not be presented in the same absence of minimum conditions.

Regional contests normally do not attract much attention beyond the country’s borders, but Sunday was different because of the steps taken by the Maduro regime and his opponents that led to the election.

The National Assembly, by a pro-Maduro majority, in May appointed two well-known opponents as members of the leadership of electoral councils, including an activist who was jailed on charges of taking part in actions to destabilize the government. It is the first time since 2005 that the Venezuelan opposition has more than one member on the board of the five-member electorate.

In August, representatives of the Maduro government and Guaid allies began a formal dialogue, led by Norwegian diplomats and organized by Mexico, to find a common way out of the political stalemate of their countries. At the end of that month, the opposition’s decision to run in the elections was announced. Maduro’s representatives for months had also had behind-the-scenes talks with allies of former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.

The EU, motivated by the talks in Mexico, accepted the invitation of Venezuelan officials to send election observers. But those talks were suspended last month following the extradition to the US of a key Maduro ally.

European Union observers are expected to publish a preliminary report Tuesday and an in-depth look next year.

Maduro, after the publication of the preliminary results, called on the winners and losers to participate in the political dialogue. But a few hours ago, in comments to reporters, Maduro said that the official dialogue with the opposition could not resume at the moment. He argued that the US government stabbed dialogue in the back.

The United States has imposed economic sanctions on the Venezuelan government, Maduro and some of its allies, including Saab, to deprive the Maduro government of its main source of revenue.

The United States supports the people of Venezuela in their desire for a peaceful restoration of democracy through free and fair elections, with full respect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Monday. . . We continue to support the Venezuelan-led negotiations to restore the democracy that Venezuelans deserve and alleviate the suffering brought to them by Maduro and his opportunities.

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