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Venezuela Opposition Agrees on Machado Replacement for July Vote

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s US-backed opposition agreed to replace banned presidential candidate María Corina Machado ahead of the July election, amid doubt that it will be able to register a challenger to run against President Nicolás Maduro.

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The opposition appointed little-known Corina Yoris, a one-time member of the opposition’s primaries organizing committee, to step in for Machado after the government kept the ban on Machado’s candidacy in place. The window for enrolling candidates ends March 25.

“We have found a person of my total confidence, honorable, who will complete this procedure with the support and trust of everyone,” said Machado from her party’s headquarters. She added that she’ll keep fighting her disqualification.

The decision follows more than two weeks of tense talks within the opposition coalition triggered by the government setting the vote for early July, giving them little time to pick and register a substitute for Machado, whose popularity in polls has been running roughly twice as high as Maduro’s

At the same time, the government has stepped up a crackdown against dissent versus Maduro regime that’s seen arrest warrants issued for some of Machado’s closest allies, including Magalli Meda, who was originally rumored to be her replacement.

Still, obstacles remain even with the selection of the 80-year-old Yoris. Since the registration window opened Thursday, the two only opposition parties authorized by the government to register candidates have been unable to do so, Machado said Friday.

And then there’s also the possibility the government could see that Yoris is disqualified.

In late 2021, a court banned then-opposition governor candidate Freddy Superlano after he secured a rare triumph in the Chavista stronghold of Barinas, in addition to two alternate candidates.

Furthermore, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in October opened an investigation of the opposition’s presidential primary, looking into allegations of electoral fraud.

“This is another moment,” Machado, 56, pointed out.

Maduro’s candidacy was confirmed last week and some of the dozen parties supporting the 61-year-old incumbent have already registered his name in the process, but he hasn’t formalized it.

The government said it had invited eight international organizations to oversee the contentious vote, including the Carter Center, the European Union and the United Nations, but none has confirmed attendance yet.

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