Venezuela Presidential Election Ordered By End Of April

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Mismanagement and a recent drop in global oil prices have left it in a deepening economic and political crisis, marked by shortages of food and medicine.

"The electoral process should be called in the first four months of the year 2018", Diosdado Cabello, the Socialist Party's number two, told the pro-government legislative superbody which ordered the election.

"I'm ready to be a candidate", he told reporters during a rally on Tuesday of cheering red-shirted supporters.

The timing of the election, which still needs to be specified by the national electoral commission, catches the opposition in a desperately weakened state.

Nonetheless, opposition leaders say they will field a single presidential candidate to challenge Maduro.

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The United States, Canada, and the European Union have all taken measures against Venezuela's government over rights and corruption allegations, hurting the government's image and spooking banks from working with Caracas.

Cabello said the decision to bring forward the elections 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". The opposition alleged there weren't enough guarantees the vote would be free and fair, but the partial boycott highlighted tensions over how best to confront Maduro, whose decision to create the all-powerful constitutional assembly alongside the opposition-controlled National Assembly has been condemned by several foreign governments, including the USA and Canada.

After the announcement, the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, assured that if the people and the socialist movements decide on it, he will place his candidacy in the presidential elections in their hands.

"We demand that presidential elections be held with adequate lead time", the so-called Lima Group said in a joint statement, adding that all political actors and independent worldwide observers must be allowed to take part. Mexico, one of several foreign governments mediating the talks in the Dominican Republic, said it was withdrawing its support for the talks to protest the Maduro government's move. Unity to restore democracy!

Meanwhile, opposition parties are planning to hold primaries in order to choose a unified presidential candidate. Yet some of its most popular leaders - including Leopoldo López, Henrique Capriles, and Antonio Ledezma - have been, respectively, imprisoned, banned from running for office, and forced into exile.