Venezuela’s opposition leader endorses new presidential candidate

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Edmundo Gonzalez Urrutia will serve as a placeholder for Venezuela’s opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, who is barred from running for president. (Wikimedia Commons pic)
CARACAS: Venezuela’s opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, who is popular but barred from running for president, endorsed on Saturday a little-known diplomat designated to be her stand-in against President Nicolas Maduro in July’s election.
Edmundo Gonzalez Urrutia was chosen unanimously on Friday by the opposition coalition known as PUD after days of meetings full of lively debate.
The endorsement from Machado, who took part in those meetings, was critical. She is Venezuela’s most popular opposition figure, and won 90% of the votes in primary elections held in October.
“We are united and strong,” she said in a video posted on social media. “We have a candidate who has been supported by everyone.”
Gonzalez Urrutia, a political analyst who formerly was Venezuela’s ambassador to Argentina and Algeria, will serve as a placeholder for Machado.
Machado has been banned from public office for 15 years by courts loyal to the Maduro government. They accuse her of corruption in what she says are bogus charges.
Machado tried to register a proxy, planning to keep fighting from the sidelines and eventually step in and run at the last minute, but electoral authorities blocked that candidate as well.
Another last-minute candidate, governor Manuel Rosales of the oil-rich state of Zulia, whose party is a member of the opposition alliance, pulled out of the race.
Many countries, including the US, refused to accept the results of Maduro’s 2018 victory, alleging fraud and a lack of transparency. That vote was boycotted by the opposition.
The United Nations estimates that almost eight million Venezuelans have fled their country since 2014 – the year after Maduro took office.
The past decade has seen a severe economic crisis marked by runaway inflation and food and medicine shortages, plunging the population into misery.

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