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EU threatens sanctions ahead of Venezuela vote

April 19, 2018

The EU has called on Nicolas Maduro's government to hold "free, transparent and credible elections" on May 20. Venezuela's opposition coalition says it will boycott the vote if they are not free and fair.

Protesters in Venezuela hold signs saying "Honor future elections" in April 2017
Image: Reuters/C. G. Rawlins

With elections approaching in Venezuela, the European Union has warned that it is "ready to react through appropriate measures" to any decision or action that might undermine democracy in the country.

Venezuela, which is struggling economically and facing frequent political protests, is set to hold presidential and legislative elections on May 20.

Read more: Venezuela: A country in meltdown

In a statement, the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc called on Nicolas Maduro's government to "ensure free, transparent and credible elections that allow the participation of all political parties under equal conditions."

The Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), Venezuela's main opposition alliance, has said it will boycott the presidential vote unless the government guarantees free and fair elections.

Recent actions 'exacerbate polarization'

"We deeply regret that elections have been convened without a wide agreement on the electoral calendar nor on the conditions for a credible and inclusive electoral process," Mogherini said.

Read more: Venezuela: Protesters 'systematically' tortured by state security forces

Mogherini also said that the recent decision of the National Electoral Council to limit participation of parties that present candidates for the presidential elections in local and regional elections was a "further blow" to the credibility of the election process.

These actions "will only exacerbate polarization and create more obstacles to a peaceful political solution," the statement said.

Crisis affecting Venezuela's neighbors

The statement also raised concern over the social impact of Venezuela's ongoing economic crisis that is seriously affecting the population and putting strain on its neighbors, such as Colombia and Brazil, as many Venezuelans leave the country.

Read more: Venezuelan exodus is Colombia's burden

The economic situation is Venezuela has seen an estimated 3 million people flee the country.

The EU has already placed sanctions on Venezuela, including an arms embargo, asset freezes and a travel ban for certain officials, in a response to what it labels the Maduro government's breaches of human rights and undermining of democracy.

Read more: Could there be a Venezuelan refugee crisis?

Mogherini said the EU was fully committed to supporting Venezuela to find peaceful and democratic solutions and was ready to use all its tools to support regional and international efforts to achieve this. 

law/msh (dpa, Reuters)