January 23, 2020 / 10:03 PM / a month ago

Venezuelan opposition party seeks U.S. blessing to 'repeat' 2018 election: document

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition politician Henri Falcon’s party is seeking the United States’ blessing for a deal with President Nicolas Maduro to overturn and repeat a 2018 vote in which Maduro trounced Falcon, the party’s lobbying firm said in a filing.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, accompanied by his wife Cilia Flores, holds a Venezuelan flag from the balcony of the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Fausto Torrealba NO RESALES, NO ARCHIVES

Canadian lobbying firm Dickens & Madson in its bi-yearly report to the U.S. Department of Justice said it was in “regular, ongoing communications with U.S. intelligence and the executive branch” to ensure Washington would not oppose the plan as long as Maduro relinquishes his claim to the presidency.

The United States, dozens of other countries and the mainstream Venezuelan opposition argue Maduro stole the 2018 vote and is no longer the legitimate president. They recognize Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition-held National Assembly, as the rightful head-of-state.

Any such deal would face many obstacles, namely Guaido allies’ aversion to negotiations with Maduro, who they argue uses such talks as tactics to buy time and cement his grip on power.

Opposition politicians often criticize Falcon’s willingness to engage with Maduro and his decision to take part in the 2018 vote, which the mainstream opposition boycotted over concerns it would not be free and fair.

But it nonetheless comes after a series of behind-the-scenes contacts between allies of Maduro and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Last year, prominent Trump supporter and private security executive Erik Prince met with Vice President Delcy Rodriguez in Caracas, while a wealthy Venezuelan businessmen who forged a profitable relationship with the socialist government has engaged Trump’s unpaid personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.[nL1N29Q20Y][nL1N28N196]

The U.S. State Department and a spokesman for Falcon did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Dickens & Madson could not be reached for comment.

Under the plan, Maduro and Falcon “would agree to the invalidation of the results of the most recent presidential election by the Supreme Court of Venezuela to enable a repeat of the election,” according to the Jan. 21-dated document.

Falcon retained the firm in July to promote its efforts.

In one filing at the time, the lobbyist said it “intends to pursue Henri Falcon’s election as President of Venezuela.” Falcon at the time called that filing false and said it had been filed due to an administrative error. [nL2N24Q1PL]

Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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