Washington (AFP) - The United States warned Tuesday that elections planned in Venezuela later this year would be deeply fraudulent, accusing leftist leader Nicolas Maduro of seeking to manipulate the outcome.
Venezuelan authorities have called December 6 elections for the National Assembly, the only government branch led by the opposition but which has been left powerless.
The regime-controlled Supreme Court had named directors of the electoral body, which expanded by two-thirds the number of seats in the legislature, citing a demographic increase in a country that has seen millions flee the crumbling economy.
"This is yet another demonstration that with Maduro still in power, and in a position to manipulate the elections and their outcome, there can be no free and fair election in Venezuela," said Elliott Abrams, the US special representative on Venezuela.
"The conditions for free and fair elections are actually much worse today than they were in May 2018, when Maduro held the presidential elections that democracies all over the world have said were fraudulent," he told reporters.
Since January 2019, the United States and some 60 other nations have recognized National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido as interim president, rejecting the conduct of the elections.
The United States has piled on sanctions, including trying to block exports of oil, the crucial money-maker for the regime.
But Maduro has remained in power with support of Venezuela's military, China and Russia.
An effort by Norway to mediate a solution in Venezuela ended in stalemate a year ago, but a Norwegian delegation recently returned to Caracas.
Abrams praised the Norwegian initiative but said he was not optimistic.
The regime has "been at the table several times but never seriously (and) never willing to negotiate the real question, which is a transition to democracy," he said.