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Venezuela's Maduro: Sanders would be president if U.S. held free, fair elections

By Andrew V. Pestano and Eric DuVall
Venezuela's Maduro: Sanders would be president if U.S. held free, fair elections
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is facing a possible recall referendum, on Tuesday said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would be the president of the United States if the country held "free" and "fair" elections. File photo UPI

CARACAS, Venezuela, June 2 (UPI) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said his "revolutionary friend" Bernie Sanders would win the U.S. presidential election if the country held "free" and "fair" elections.

Maduro made the comments during a televised address on Tuesday.

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"If the elections were free -- free -- and did not depend on an archaic system of 200 years, Bernie Sanders would be president of the United States," Maduro said. "Donald Trump could win with the electoral system they have in the United States, and you know why? Because Donald Trump is channeling a force for change that is obscured in U.S. society."

Sanders himself has criticized elements of U.S. elections, particularly the fact that many independent voters have been shut out of the primary process in states where elections are closed to all but registered party members.

RELATED Maduro: Venezuela's opposition committed 'treason' for urging OAS action

And while Sanders remains relatively close to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the race for pledged delegates, Clinton is poised to capture the nomination thanks to unelected superdelegates, the hundreds of handpicked party leaders who are permitted to support the candidate of their choosing in the primary, and who have largely flocked to Clinton, the establishment-backed candidate.

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Maduro could be removed as president if the Venezuelan opposition successfully initiates a recall referendum. Venezuela is facing an economic crisis in which basic food and medicines are difficult to find.

On Wednesday, Maduro accused the opposition, which controls parliament, the National Assembly, of committing "treason" for urging the Organization of American States to take action. On Tuesday, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro invoked the Inter-American Democratic Charter over fears of Venezuela's diminishing democracy.

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Maduro's administration has repeatedly called any action by the OAS to be foreign intervention that interferes with Venezuela's affairs and threatens the country's constitution.

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