World News

Venezuela insists on December congress vote despite EU call for delay

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela on Thursday insisted it will hold legislative elections on Dec. 6, following a call by the European Union for a delay to ensure a free and fair vote.

Opposition parties led by congress chief Juan Guaido have said they will not participate in the vote on the grounds that it is rigged in favor of President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party.

The EU last week sent a mission to Caracas and on Wednesday issued a statement saying conditions do not exist for a free and fair election.

Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday the EU’s statement “reflects a biased position on the conditions in which the Venezuelan people will choose the new National Assembly on Dec. 6,” and called on the EU to play “a positive and respectful facilitation role.”

Maduro had asked the United Nations and the EU to send electoral observation missions. Officials say the EU needs at least six months to organize an observation group.

Two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles for weeks urged the opposition to fight for better conditions, but on Wednesday night said a delay was necessary to ensure a free and fair vote.

The opposition-run congress on Thursday approved a measure calling for a “popular consultation” asking Venezuelans if they reject the Dec. 6 elections and whether they support “domestic and national pressure mechanisms” to push Maduro from power.

Those who participate can do so in person, by mail, or electronically, the legislature said in a press release, adding it will be available to Venezuelans who live outside the country. The legislature’s press team said the date for the consultation had not been set.

Reporting by Vivian Sequera; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Daniel Wallis