The United States condemns Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s threat to ban opposition parties from participating in next year’s presidential elections. Following recent municipal elections, Maduro stated that parties which did not participate, and called for a boycott of local elections, can't take part in future elections.
The opposition parties affected by the move are Justice First, Popular Will, and A New Era, all three of which boycotted the municipal polls because they said they would be neither free nor fair.
Popular Will's national coordinator Juan Andres Mejia said the municipal poll “was an electoral farce that in no way represents the will of the people." He cited abuse of state resources and coercion of government employees to vote. "This party does not kneel," Mejia said. "This party does not back down and does not give up on its principles," despite the fact that "half of our leadership is either in exile or in detention.”
“The Venezuelan people deserve the right to express their views and consent to governance through a free and fair democratic process that is open to all candidates,” said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. “A presidential election cannot be legitimate if candidates and parties cannot freely participate.”
The U.S. calls on the Venezuelan government to create the conditions necessary for free, fair, and internationally observed presidential elections in 2018.
Maduro's government crackdown on the opposition has taken a toll. Public protests this year led to more than 125 deaths, thousands of arrests and injuries, reports of torture of detainees, and widespread damage to property.
"As long as the Maduro regime conducts itself as a dictatorship," said Ms. Nauert, "we will continue to bring the full weight of American economic and diplomatic power to bear in support of the Venezuelan people as they seek to restore their democracy."