By Nestor Rojas Mavares (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – The main Venezuelan opposition announced on Wednesday that it will not participate in the snap presidential elections of April 22, because it considers the vote a show by President Nicolas Maduro, who will now run virtually unopposed for re-election until 2025.
“Do not count on the Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) coalition nor the Venezuelan people to endorse what until now is only a fraudulent and illegitimate simulation of a presidential election,” said the grouping that brings together the main opposition parties in the country.
The alliance said in a statement that it is ready to participate in clean, transparent elections with international observation.
The opposition position comes as the country slips deeper by the day into severe economic recession with shortages of basic foods and medicines, along with hyperinflation and a lack of cash currency in circulation.
MUD spokesperson Ángel Oropeza, read the statement which indicates that the goal of the alliance is to achieve the democratic conditions that would allow fair elections.
“We have agreed by consensus to continue demanding free elections to come out of what is pummeling our people,” he said.
The opposition leader said that if the government complies with the laws and electoral conditions, they will participate in elections, first called by the Constituent Assembly, totally dominated by Maduro and associates, and then set by the National Electoral Council (CNE).
In an immediate reaction, Maduro said that on April 22 there will be elections with or without opposition and he replied to the MUD saying that he will propose to the Constituent Assembly, totally dominated by his supporters, to advance the legislative elections of 2020 and those of the regional councils, for the same balloting on April 22 along with the presidential vote.
“Come rain, thunder or lightening, there will be elections here, with MUD or without MUD,” he said, calling the opposition coalition “arrogant.”
In addition, he said he is confident that some opposition candidates will be registered outside the MUD for the presidential elections. “Here there will be elections for president, deputies and regional councils,” he said.
At the same time, Maduro welcomed the CNE’s invitation for a United Nations delegation to participate as an observer in the elections and that the former president of the Spanish Government, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, will lead it.
For several days, the opposition was discussing whether to participate in the decision in Maduro’s. Despite the alliance’s withdrawal, pre-candidate Henri Falcón, of the small Progressive Alliance party, said he will keep his candidacy. Another opponent, Claudio Fermín, without partisan support in the MUD, also presented his name for the presidential elections. (Editors Note: on Thursday Fermín also withdrew his candidacy)
The MUD called the April 22 elections premature and without proper conditions. “(They are) a show of the Government to pretend a legitimacy that it doesn’t have, in the midst of the agony and suffering of the Venezuelans,” said Ángel Oropez.
“We are calling on Venezuelans to get off the fence…, realizing that these are not elections. Our objective is to achieve real elections, the Constitution demands it and we will direct our struggle towards that goal,” he added.