Democratic Unitary Platform denounces ‘violation’ of voter rights after being unable to field rival to incumbent Maduro.

Venezuela’s main opposition coalition claimed it has been blocked from registering its candidate to challenge Nicolas Maduro in upcoming presidential elections.

The Plataforma Unitaria Democratica (PUD) said in a video issued on Tuesday that it had been unable to formally register presidential candidate Corina Yoris on the electoral authority’s online registration system before a midnight deadline. Neighbouring states have expressed concern that President Maduro has so far managed to block his chief opponents from the July 28 vote.

“They haven’t let us get in,” said coalition official Omar Barboza. Calling for the registry to be reopened, he blasted the “violation of the right of the majority of Venezuelans who want to vote for change”.

Yoris, 80, was named as the PUD candidate last week by Maria Corina Machado. The leader of the liberal Vente Venezuela party won the opposition nomination by a landslide last year, but she was blocked from running in the presidential election by the Supreme Court.

Opposition leader María Corina Machado holds a news conference accompanied by Corina Yoris, in Caracas, Venezuela, March 22, 2024 [Ariana Cubillos/AP Photo]

Yoris’s candidacy took the country by surprise. The academic is relatively unknown and, until now, her only public political role was helping to organise last year’s opposition primary in which 2.4 million voters defied government threats of criminal prosecution to select a candidate to run against Maduro.

But her relative anonymity, squeaky-clean record and grandmotherly air have fast become part of her appeal. Her name, Corina, is viewed as an asset, a not-so-subtle reminder of her namesake ally, Machado.

“It’s not just the name of Corina Yoris that is being denied but the name of any citizen that wants to run,” said Yoris at a news conference.

Landslide

Polls suggest that Maduro would lose by a landslide if Venezuelan voters were given a fair choice.

To date, 10 candidates have registered to compete in the July elections. However, none are viewed as a serious threat to Maduro’s power base.

Despite Yoris’s difficulties, the National Electoral Council announced early on Tuesday that Manuel Rosales, governor of the northwest Zulia state, had officially registered for the election “by automated means”.

Neither the Venezuelan Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information nor the council has commented on Yoris’s eligibility to run.

In a joint statement, Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay expressed concern over the PUD candidate’s inability to register.

Maduro has been alternately negotiating and reneging on minimal electoral guarantees promised to the United States in exchange for relief from oil sanctions.

Two people close to Machado were arrested last week, causing an outcry from Washington, which has already warned it will allow oil sanction relaxations to expire in April if Caracas does not allow free and fair elections.

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