Venezuela’s main opposition bloc agrees on candidate to challenge Maduro in presidential election

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Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a rally marking the 22nd anniversary of the late President Hugo Chavez’s return to power after a failed coup attempt, in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, April 13. (AP)

CARACAS, Venezuela, April 20, (AP): Venezuela’s main opposition coalition agreed Friday to unite behind former diplomat Edmundo González as its challenger to President Nicolás Maduro in this summer’s election, acting one day before the deadline to formalize its candidate.
The decision was reached unanimously by the 10 parties in the Unitary Democratic Platform, Omar Barboza, the coalition’s executive secretary, said after a five-hour meeting that included discussions of other possible candidates.
The bloc had been allowed to provisionally register González on March 26 after the government came under a wave of criticism when opposition leaders said they were blocked from registering their candidate of choice. Saturday was the deadline to make his candidacy final.
The opposition group needed to replace its first candidate, María Corina Machado, who easily won a primary organized by the bloc in October but was barred by the government from running after the ruling party-controlled State Comptroller’s Office disqualified her from holding public office for 15 years.
Maduro’s administration has cracked down on the opposition before the July 28 presidential election despite promises to pave the way to fair elections in exchange for sanctions relief. The Biden administration on Wednesday reimposed crushing oil sanctions, criticizing Maduro’s moves.
The governments of Colombia and Brazil also have expressed concern, and Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo accused Maduro’s government of “consolidating an anti-democratic system.”
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yvan Gil has called the criticism a “gross interference in matters that only concern Venezuelans.”
Maduro, a self-proclaimed socialist leader. officially launched his candidacy last month for a third term that would last until 2031.
The election is likely to have more than 10 candidates, but except for the main opposition coalition, none are expect to pose a threat to Maduro’s power base.

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