Venezuela's Guaido calls for opposition input into new electoral body

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido attends a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela March 3, 2021. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Wednesday that he would support naming a new electoral council but said its members should not be chosen unilaterally by the National Assembly currently held by the ruling socialist party.

Guaido and his allies boycotted legislative elections last December, asserting they would be rigged in favor of candidates aligned with President Nicolas Maduro's party - in part because they alleged the National Electoral Council (CNE), which oversees elections, was made up of Maduro loyalists.

The socialists won handily, but neither the opposition nor its international allies like the United States and European Union recognize the legitimacy of the new, socialist-held parliament. Guaido named a committee of allied lawmakers he says make up the "legitimate parliament."

His comments at a Wednesday press conference came after 70 non-governmental organizations this week presented a list of 15 candidates to conform a new CNE, ahead of elections for state governors and municipal mayors due later this year.

"I celebrate those that put their names forward, but you can understand there is no way (to name a new CNE) through a unilateral process by the dictatorship without the participation of the legitimate parliament, recognized by our allies," Guaido said.

Maduro argues that the conditions of the December 2020 elections were the same as when the opposition won control of the legislature in December 2015, and that opposition parties chose not to participate because they thought they would lose.

The government's information ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Maduro has overseen an economic collapse that has led to a humanitarian crisis since taking office in the once-prosperous OPEC nation in 2013. Washington has imposed sanctions to try to oust Maduro, who it accuses of corruption, rights violations and rigging his 2018 re-election.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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