Venezuela presidential challenger calls for new election as Canada slaps new sanctions on the Latin American country.
President Nicolas Maduro’s closest challenger in this month’s presidential polls, Henri Falcon, is asking the Supreme Court to order a new vote.
“Today we are presenting before the Supreme Court of Justice the proper foundation of our case which demonstrates that such an electoral process is invalid,” Falcon told journalists on Wednesday.
Nicolas Maduro was re-elected as Venezuela’s president on May 20 in an election marred by low turnout, a boycott by the main opposition and allegations from rival candidates of several voting irregularities.
“The scope of this challenge must be the call for new elections in Venezuela,” he told the court, adding that the May 20 ballot “did not exist and must be declared null and void”.
Falcon, an ex-army officer, scored 21 percent of the ballot, from which more than half the electorate abstained.
Falcon argued that Maduro’s ruling socialist party unfairly influenced the election by setting up kiosks near voting centres and giving poor residents bonuses.
“Bribery is punished,” said Falcon. “It is punishable by law and you cannot appeal to the social policy of a state to buy votes.”
He also denounced the use of state media to promote Maduro’s campaign, and claimed “pressure and coercion” was used against opposition monitors in polling stations.
The Supreme Court rarely votes against Maduro.
The legal challenge comes as Canada slapped 14 Venezuelan leaders with sanctions on Wednesday, condemning the election as illegitimate and anti-democratic.
The regulation imposed asset freezes of the individuals and bars Canadians from having property or providing financial services to those on the list.
Cilia Flores de Maduro, Venezuela’s first lady and a member of the National Constituent Assembly is among those hit by the sanctions.
Last September, Canada imposed sanctions against 40 Venezuelan senior officials, including the president.
Earlier this week, the European Union also called for fresh presidential elections in Venezuela, as it prepared to impose targeted sanctions against officials in the South American country.
The US had already imposed penalties barring US companies or citizens from buying debts issued by the government and state-run oil company PDVSA.
The Lima Group, a bloc of countries from the Americas recalled their ambassadors to protest against what it said was Venezuela’s failure to hold a “free and fair” election.
One of Maduro’s supporters, Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel, flew into in Caracas on Wednesday for his first foreign visit as head of state.
“Venezuela now needs our solidarity,” Diaz-Canel told Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly, a pro-government legislative superbody set up last year. “The aggression against Venezuela harms all of America.”