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LATIN AMERICA | 22-03-2024 00:21

Venezuela faces criticism over arrests ahead of vote

Argentina leads international criticism of Venezuela over its arrest of two top aides to opposition leader María Corina Machado, a surging rival to President Nicolás Maduro.

Venezuela on Thursday faced a rising tide of international criticism over its arrest of two top aides to opposition leader María Corina Machado, a surging rival to President Nicolás Maduro.

Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Canada all condemned the latest arrests, declaring them a setback in the run-up to July 28 presidential elections. 

President Javier Milei's government in Buenos Aires said it "strongly condemns and expresses its absolute repudiation of the arbitrary detention by the Venezuelan authorities of Henry Alviarez and Dignora Hernández, leaders of Vente Venezuela and the issuing of arrest warrants against other leaders of that political group."

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also warned against actions that would interfere with Venezuela's presidential election process, spokesman Farhan Haq said Thursday.

Alviarez and Hernández, the two aides to Machado, were arrested Wednesday and have not yet had communication with their lawyers, Machado's Vente Venezuela party said on the social network X.

Chile's Foreign Ministry said the arrests constituted "an action contrary to the democratic spirit that should prevail in any electoral process."

Peru spoke of a "growing limitation on the exercise of the right to citizen participation of all political sectors in Venezuela."

Argentina said the arrests were a blow to "the emergence of new political leaderships and their legitimisation by the citizens."

In a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, Buenos Aires called for the "prompt release of the detained leaders" and "the cessation of arbitrary detentions of representatives of the opposition," accusing the Maduro administration of acting "contrary to the democratic spirit" and carrying out "a systematic reactivation" of human rights violations.

Seven of Machado's collaborators have now been arrested, while another seven are sought by the courts, including Machado's right-hand aide, Magalli Meda, who was considered as an alternative to be nominated in her place.

Venezuelan authorities linked Machado, 56, who has been disqualified from holding any public office for 15 years, with plans to take "destabilising actions" ahead of the July 28 vote.

Though she isn't even on the ballot, Machado is the overwhelming favourite in the race. Some surveys put her support at about 72 percent.

Under electoral rules, her party must decide before Monday whom it will register as its candidate. 

Haq, the UN spokesman, called for the good faith implementation of an agreement signed last year in Barbados by Maduro's government and the opposition to hold a free and fair vote in 2024 with international observers present. 

Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez posted on X that Haq's statement "disregards the internal and external threats against the Venezuelan people."

Maduro, a former bus-driver and political organiser, is seeking a third term in office amid economic and political crises, and mass emigration.

On Wednesday, Machado accused the Venezuelan government was attacking her party for fear of losing the presidential election.

Official nominations for presidential candidates opened on Thursday. 

 

 

– TIMES/AFP

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