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Election campaign begins in Venezuela, opposition returns

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Tomás Guanipa, candidate for mayor of Caracas, talks with the residents of the poor neighborhoods in the west of the city where the deterioration of the streets obstructs traffic, the drinking water pipes are broken and the sewage drags garbage and debris in its path decomposed organics.

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After almost two decades of pro-government mayors, the opposition candidate promises to address these and other problems and asks for the vote of the capital to “rescue“To the city and that its almost two million inhabitants”live better ”.

Naked eye Guanipa He is one of the nearly 70,000 candidates for the election of governors, mayors and state and municipal legislatures on November 21, but the opposition leader – accused of trying to overthrow the illegitimate president Nicolás Maduro – was one of the deputies who left the country .

During his exile, he served for almost 19 months as the representative in Colombia of Juan Guaidó, who as head of the previous National Assembly proclaimed himself interim president in 2019 and is recognized by the United States and dozens of countries as the legitimate president of Venezuela after the election. from Mature months before in elections considered fraudulent.

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The candidacy of Guanipa It is, in part, the result of the judicial process against him being set aside by Maduro’s decision in August 2020. The return of many opponents this year to the electoral path ended up being raided within the framework of the now suspended dialogues in Mexico.

Guanipa, who participates as an opposition delegate in the talks – unilaterally suspended by Chavismo in protest at the extradition of Alex Saab, considered a front man of Mature, from Cape Verde to the United States – trusts that the dialogues will resume after the elections.

The main opposition parties – which since 2017 had boycotted the electoral processes claiming that there were no suitable conditions – confirmed their participation on August 31.

The boycott was then “fully justified“Since the conditions”they were unacceptable to attend“, said Guanipa to The Associated Press on a tour of San Juan Parish.

We still do not have sufficient electoral conditions to be able to say that we are in a country where there are competitive elections, but the progress we have made is a gap that allows us to open a window of opportunities, which I believe we have to take advantage of.”, He said.

The electoral campaign officially began on Thursday in a scenario, where beyond the election, both the authorities and the electoral system of Venezuela, discredited after years marked by the disqualification of parties and some of the most popular opposition candidates.

Many doubt the impartiality of the National Electoral Council (CNE), even accused of setting the dates of the elections and their conditions so that they adjust to the political objectives of the Executive to the detriment of its adversaries.

As part of the efforts of the new electoral authorities to clear up these doubts, the president of the CNE, Pedro Calzadilla, announced the day before the deployment of 2,000 electoral prosecutors who will have the responsibility of monitoring compliance with the regulations during the electoral campaign.

Among the powers of the prosecutors is to register any irregularity during the campaign and refer it to the electoral body so that the directory can take the corresponding corrective measures. The electoral campaign will end on November 18.

According to official figures, more than 21 million Venezuelans are empowered to elect 3,082 positions in the elections, which were previously held separately due to the complexity of electing 23 governors, 335 mayors and several thousand state and municipal legislators through lists that include the applicants and their substitutes.

Calzadilla highlighted that the “electoral process takes place in the midst of a climate of dialogue “ and guaranteed the “Transparency and security of the vote”.

The elections will also be monitored by independent bodies, a long-standing demand from critics of the socialist government.

The European Union accepted the invitation of the Venezuelan authorities and sent observers to monitor the electoral campaign and the upcoming elections. The EU, which last year did not recognize the legislative elections, had not participated in a Venezuelan electoral process since 2006.

The European mission will carry out an independent technical evaluation of the entire electoral process and will give recommendations for future elections.

The CNE was also renovated for the occasion. In May, the National Assembly, with a pro-government majority, appointed two well-known opponents as members of its new leadership, including an activist who was imprisoned accused of participating in alleged actions to destabilize the government. It is the first time since 2005 that the Venezuelan opposition will have more than one member on the board of the electoral body made up of five people.

That concession was seen by some as an effort to rescue the confidence of Venezuelans in the vote and would also be part of a series of measures adopted by the Maduro regime with a view to improving its image abroad and adding support to ensure that Washington ease the penalties imposed to force your resignation.

The electoral authorities’ appointments came after several weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations between government representatives and moderate opponents, some of them aligned with former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.

The past state and municipal elections were marked by local and international questions and the boycott of the main opposition parties, which alleged the lack of conditions to guarantee a fair and transparent election.

Among other actions to encourage participation, the CNE conducted a thorough review of the registry and the automated electoral system. It was also planned “review the status of disables”For various causes of some of the most popular leaders of the opposition, but most of them remained.

Empowerment depended on other instances such as the government-controlled Supreme Court of Justice, which stripped control of three of the four main opposition forces from their traditional leaders and handed over the leadership of those organizations to opposition dissidents who have been accused of having ties to the government.

It is not ruled out that if the dialogues in Mexico prosper, these and other goals will finally be achieved.

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