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EU says 'time is too short' to send observers for Venezuela's December vote

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

CARACAS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union has received an invitation to observe parliamentary elections in Venezuela in December, but President Nicolas Maduro’s authoritarian government so far has not met “minimum conditions” to allow it to do so, an EU spokeswoman said on Friday.

The spokeswoman, in a statement to Reuters, said “time is already too short” to deploy a full EU Electoral Observation Mission if Maduro’s administration does not delay the vote beyond the current date of Dec 6.

“Minimum conditions for credible, inclusive and transparent elections should be met for the deployment of (the mission),” she said.

Venezuela’s opposition has split on whether to participate in the elections, which will see voters elect delegates in the National Assembly. The current assembly head, Juan Guaido, is recognized by the EU as Venezuela’s legitimate head-of-state, though Maduro retains control of the government and military.

Guaido’s coalition of parties has vowed to boycott the election to avoid legitimizing an electoral process they deride as rigged. But in recent weeks another opposition bloc has emerged, under two-time former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, which says Guaido’s stance risks making the opposition irrelevant and a strategy based on persuading foreign nations to impose sanctions on Maduro’s government has failed.

On Thursday, Stalin Gonzalez, an opposition lawmaker backing Capriles, told Bloomberg that Capriles’ faction would also boycott the election unless international observers agree to attend.

Asked for comment on the EU’s new statement, Gonzalez told Reuters that “the best option” now would be to delay the election until conditions are met. “We are fighting for conditions and international observation is fundamental to participate,” he said.

Maduro has rejected calls to push back the vote and said on Tuesday they would take place on Dec 6 “rain, thunder or lightning.”

Writing by Angus Berwick; Editing by Alistair Bell

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