Venezuela said future elections in the country would only take place once U.S. sanctions against top ranking officials and its finances are lifted, in a sign from the government that next year’s presidential vote is at risk.
Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said that any potential accord between President Nicolas Maduro and opposition lawmakers, as well as any vote, hinged on “the lifting of the vulgar sanctions the Venezuelan right wing’s leadership requested of Donald Trump’s Treasury Department as well as Spanish, Canadian and other authorities.”
Rodriguez’s comments on a televised address followed two days of close-door discussions in the Dominican Republic between Venezuela’s warring political factions. The meeting was the first since Maduro installed an all-powerful body of loyalists in August in his push to rewrite the constitution and consolidate power.
The U.S. and the European Union have levied a series of sanctions against top Venezuelan officials and on certain financial transactions in response to the Maduro regime policies of undermining the democratic processes in the country.
The government has dismissed the sanctions, and described the international penalties as nefarious threats against Venezuela’s sovereignty, part of an effort to impose further damage on the country’s fragile economy.
“They tried to hide the truth by saying that these were sanctions against Venezuelan officials,” said Rodriguez, who is the government’s lead negotiator in talks with opposition lawmakers. “No, no. They are sanctions aimed at preventing Venezuela from acquiring medicine, food, and raw material required by its industry.”
Venezuela’s constitution dictates that a presidential vote must take place every six years, but electoral authorities have yet to establish a date for 2018 elections. Opposition lawmakers have demanded the government publish an comprehensive electoral calendar, following accusations of fraud during last October election for governors.