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In break with his foreign minister, Moreno offers mild criticism of Venezuela election

For the first time, Ecuador has officially expressed concern about the exclusion of opposition candidates in last Sunday’s Venezuelan presidential election. President Nicolas Maduro was declared the winner on Monday in an election that drew less than half of eligible voters.

President Lenin Moreno

Although mild, the criticism represents a clear break between President Lenin Moreno and Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa who has maintained that the election was legitimate and that the results should be respected.

Through his press secretary, Moreno expressed “deep concern about the difficult situation” faced by the people of Venezuela and said he was particularly troubled by the exclusion of candidates from opposition parties in the election.

Maduro had barred the strongest opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, from running in the election. Polls indicated that had he run, Capriles would have handily defeated Maduro.

At a press conference later on Wednesday, Andrés Michelena, Moreno’s press secretary, refused to say whether Moreno would respect the results of the election.

Beginning today, Espinosa is on a leave of absence from the foreign ministry to campaign for the job of president of the United Nations General Assembly. Sources in Moreno’s office said she will not be returning to her old job.

On Monday, the 14 member nations of the Peru Group announced they were recalling their ambassadors from Caracas to protest what they called “unfair elections.” The bloc consists of Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia.

On Tuesday, the Organization of American States called for new elections in Venezuela, based on evidence of election fraud and the fact that opposition candidates were excluded.