Fourteen Latin American countries will recall ambassadors from Venezuela to protest election

May 21, 2018

A bloc of countries from the Americas opposing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said that all its 14 members will recall their ambassadors to the country to protest against what it said was the country’s failure to hold a “free and fair” election.

Opposition candidate Henri Falcon called Sunday’s election ‘Illegitimate.’

In a statement issued on Monday, the Lima Group said the members’ diplomats in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, would return to their respective countries for consultations.

The bloc consists of Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia.

Members have also summoned Venezuelan ambassadors and agreed to dampen diplomatic relations with Maduro’s government, the statement said.

Maduro was re-elected as Venezuela’s president on Sunday in an election marred by low turnout, a boycott by the main opposition and allegations from rival candidates of several voting irregularities.

The 55-year-old won 5.8 million votes in Sunday’s election, 4 million more than second-placed Henri Falcon, an independent candidate. Prior to the election, polls indicated that the race was close.

Turnout for the single-round vote was about 46 percent, according to Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), significantly lower than the 80 percent recorded during the country’s last presidential election in 2013.

About 20 million people had been eligible to participate in the ballot.

Maduro hailed his win as a victory against “imperialism,” accused rivals of “underestimating” him and said a presidential candidate had “never before … taken 68 percent of the popular vote”.

“We are the force of history turned into a permanent popular victory,” he said on Sunday evening in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, following the announcement of results.

But Falcon called for a new vote, alleging the election was illegitimate.

“We do not recognize this electoral process as valid,” he told local media. “There must be new elections in Venezuela.”

Claudio Fermin, Falcon’s campaign chief, said his team documented more than 900 cases of voting irregularities, including the widespread placement of pro-government stands outside polling stations.

Venezuela’s main opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, boycotted the election, while Maduro’s two most popular rivals, Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo Lopez, were barred from running.

The election came against the backdrop of a political and financial crisis, with more than 100 people killed in protests throughout 2017 amid growing discontent over biting hyperinflation and shortages in food and medicine supplies.

In its statement, the Lima Group said Venezuela’s electoral process had not complied with “international standards” and expressed concern over the “deepening political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis” unfolding in the country.

“[This crisis] is reflected in the massive migration of Venezuelans who arrive in our countries in difficult conditions and in the loss of democratic institutions, the rule of law and the lack of guarantees and political freedoms of citizens,” the group’s statement said.

The number of Venezuelan nationals abroad increased from almost 700,000 to more than 1.6 million between 2015-2017, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The Lima Group, which was formed in August 2017 to address the Venezuela crisis, will convene for a high-level meeting next month in Peru to address the migration issue.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State MIke Pompeo the “sham elections” had changed nothing in a post on Twitter on Sunday.
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Credit, Al Jazeera, www.aljazeera.com

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