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Venezuela's Maduro files election candidacy, opposition blocked

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, pictured on March 16, 2024, is seeking to extend his turbulent 11 years in power by another six-year term (MARCELO GARCIA)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, pictured on March 16, 2024, is seeking to extend his turbulent 11 years in power by another six-year term (MARCELO GARCIA)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday officially registered his candidacy in July elections, while the opposition remained blocked from signing up its aspirant with just hours until the clock runs out.

Maduro, 61, formalized his third-term run for the presidency with great fanfare, as thousands turned out to rally behind him and the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

"I was moved by so much generosity and recognition on the part of the people for this humble man from the neighborhoods of Caracas, this humble worker," said Maduro, carrying an illustration of his revolutionary mentor Hugo Chavez.

The former bus driver is seeking to extend his turbulent 11 years in power by another six-year term, amid rising concerns over his slide into full-blown authoritarianism and crackdown on the opposition.

In a show of force, he called thousands of supporters to rally behind him, many of whom wore red and chanted his name.

"Nicolas is the hope, he is the continuity of a project that Commander Hugo Chavez started," Pedro Mata, 52, told AFP at the rally.

However, opinion surveys show that he is not the favorite.

Venezuelans go to the polls on July 28 after a grim decade marked by an economic crisis that has pushed millions to flee the country.

Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, 56, won a primary vote last year hands down, and some surveys put her support at about 72 percent.

However, she was banned from public office for 15 years by courts loyal to Maduro on charges of corruption widely dismissed as spurious, and for supporting Western sanctions against the government.

Machado has nevertheless kept campaigning, and on Friday, she tapped an 80-year-old university professor, Corina Yoris, as her stand-in.

- Proxy blocked -

However, on the eve of the deadline to register, the opposition coalition Democratic Unitary Platform (PUD) said it had not received the necessary access codes to register Yoris on the National Electoral Council (CNE) website.

"The system is completely closed," Yoris told a press conference on Monday.

"My rights as a Venezuelan citizen are being violated," she said.

She said that her team had gone in person to the CNE to deliver a letter requesting a three-day extension to the period to nominate candidates, but had been unable to do so.

The final list of presidential candidates will be published at the end of April.

So far, 10 people have been registered as opposition candidates, however all are considered aligned with Maduro's government.

UN chief Antonio Guterres last week warned against interference in the election.

Seven of Machado's party and campaign officials have been arrested, and warrants have been issued for several more, all accused of seeking to destabilize the country.

Many countries refused to recognize the results of Maduro's last election in 2018, citing fraud and a lack of transparency, and instead recognized parliamentary president Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate leader.

Six years later Maduro, 61, is still firmly in charge of the oil-rich nation after his rival's government collapsed and the war in Ukraine choked energy supplies and shifted global priorities.

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