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Venezuela government calls for presidential vote by end April

2 min

Caracas (AFP)

Venezuela will hold presidential elections by the end of April, the ruling Constituent Assembly said Tuesday, pulling forward a vote in which President Nicolas Maduro hopes to triumph over a divided opposition.

The polls were scheduled to be held by the end of the year, but analysts had predicted Maduro would seek an early election to seize the advantage over his opponents as they reel from a string of recent defeats.

A top Socialist Party official, Diosdado Cabello, confirmed to the Assembly that Maduro would be the party's sole candidate.

"We are not going to have a problem. We have only one candidate to continue with the revolution," he said, as delegates chanted "Nicolas, Nicolas".

Maduro, 55, has yet to formally declare his candidacy, though Vice President Tareck El Aissami told a party rally late last year that he would seek a second term.

Cabello said the National Electoral Council (CNE) -- accused by the opposition of serving the government -- would set an exact date for the elections, which he said would be "before April 30."

Cabello said the decision to bring forward the elections, originally scheduled for December, was a response to the United States and the European Union for imposing sanctions on Venezuela, which he said had the sole objective "of seeking a change of government."

"If the world wants to apply sanctions, we will apply elections," Cabello told the Assembly, created last year to usurp the power of the opposition-dominated legislature.

"Imperial powers have unleashed a systematic and hateful campaign against Venezuela," he said.

The EU blacklisted seven senior Venezuelan officials over human rights violations last week, including the interior minister, the intelligence chief, the attorney general, the head of the CNE and Cabello himself.

The US also announced a series of sanctions against Venezuela as Maduro has consolidated power amid a crackdown on opponents.

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