Venezuela Says Electoral Observers Are Invited to July Race

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s electoral body said it invited eight international monitoring missions as questions surround the fairness of July’s presidential vote.

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National Electoral Council President Elvis Amoroso said on Thursday that invitations have been sent to the European Union, Carter Center, United Nations and five other groups. Their participation was part of a US- brokered agreement signed last year between the Nicolás Maduro government and sectors of Venezuela’s opposition.

Earlier this week Venezuela said it will hold presidential elections on July 28, sending shock waves through the opposition, which now has less than three weeks to officially register a challenger to Maduro. Leading contender María Corina Machado is banned from participating in the election, which have heightened tensions within the opposition to announce a replacement.

Read More: Venezuela Opposition Split on Who Will Challenge Maduro in July

The Carter Center has yet to receive an invitation, said Jennie Lincoln, the group’s principal advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean. The European Union and United Nations didn’t immediately reply to requests seeking to confirm Venezuela’s offer.

In a webcast on Thursday, US Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols said the election’s timeline set forth by Venezuela was “tight.”

“We don’t want to prejudge how things will turn out, but the direction of travel is deeply worrisome,” Nichols said.

The Venezuelan government last invited European observers for a regional vote in 2021, during which the electoral mission issued a document with more than 20 recommendations on voting transparency and safeguarding measures to be implemented in future elections.

Tensions with the government arose in the run-up to the elections when Maduro called the observers “spies.” Part of the team was then kicked out of the country days before they were scheduled to depart.

(Updates with comments from Brian Nichols starting in the fifth paragraph)

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