EU Suspends Sanctions on Venezuela Official Ahead of Election

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union temporarily lifted sanctions against the head of Venezuela’s election authority and three former officials, an overture designed to encourage a free and fair presidential vote in July.

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The EU extended other sanctions against Venezuela through Jan. 10, a spokesman confirmed Monday. The regional body is among groups that have been negotiating access to Venezuela to monitor the election on July 28.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is running for re-election and seeking to restore his regime’s international legitimacy after 11 years of political repression. Winning the vote with the imprimatur of election monitoring by the EU would be a helpful step.

The US agreed last year to suspend sanctions against Venezuela, but restored many of them last month, citing a failure by the regime to keep its commitment to a democratic process. The most popular opposition candidate, María Corina Machado, was banned from running, and some aides and other activists have been jailed or charged with crimes.

Still, the opposition united behind another candidate, Edmundo González, who thus far has been allowed to contend. Democracy advocates have cited that development as a hopeful sign.

“We acknowledge recent encouraging steps and reconfirm our commitment and support for the smooth progress of the electoral process,” said Peter Stano, an EU spokesperson.

Maduro’s government said Monday that the EU didn’t go far enough with its sanctions relief.

“Deceitfully, they removed some members of the National Electoral Board from the sanctions list, to supposedly send a signal of good faith or relief, and we say frankly that we reject that position,” Foreign Affairs Minister Yvan Gil said, according to newspaper El Universal.

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