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Venezuela opposition shifts strategy, will take part in elections

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A woman holds the hand of opposition leader Jose Manuel Olivares, candidate for the Governor of La Guaira state, as he addresses supporters during a political rally ahead of the November regional elections, in Maiquetia, Venezuela August 25, 2021. Picture taken August 25, 2021. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

CARACAS, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Venezuela's main opposition parties said on Tuesday they will participate in November regional and local elections, a strategy reversal after boycotting previous elections they argued were not free or fair.

The opposition'sdecision was made as a more-than two-year push to oust President Nicolas Maduro through international pressure and calls for the military to switch allegiances has failed. Opponents label Maduro a dictator who rigged his 2018 re-election and violates human rights to quash dissent.

That frustration has led many opposition politicians to clamor for Juan Guaido - an opposition legislator elected in 2015 and later recognized by the United States as interim president - to change tack, as U.S. sanctions add to the OPEC member's economic woes. read more

"For those who think that the solution is not electoral ... then what is it?" Henry Ramos Allup, a leader of the Democratic Action opposition party, asked at a news conference in Caracas.

Maduro welcomed the opposition's announcement as a change from calls for sanctions and military intervention.

"The decision to participate in the elections once again is worthy of applause," he said on state television. "I will sit in my armchair with popcorn on November 21 to watch Juan Guaido vote."

Earlier on Tuesday, Freddy Guevara - a leader in Guaido's hardline Popular Will party - called for "coexistence" with Maduro rather than trying to force a change in government. read more

The Venezuelan United Platform, a grouping of opposition parties, said in a statement that the elections would not be "fair nor conventional," but the vote would nonetheless be a "useful battleground" to push for presidential and parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, representatives of Maduro's government and the opposition are preparing for negotiations Sept. 3-6 to resolve the South American country's political crisis. read more

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Writing by Luc Cohen; editing by Grant McCool

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