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Maduro bans opposition parties from Venezuelan presidential election

By Allen Cone
Maduro bans opposition parties from Venezuelan presidential election
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro casts his vote during municipal elections Sunday in Caracas. Photo by Miraflores/EPA

Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has banned his country's main opposition parties from participating in next year's presidential election after they boycotted mayoral elections.

"A party that has not participated today cannot participate anymore,'' Maduro, who has been granted near dictarorial powers, said after casting his ballot Sunday in Caracas.

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His ruling United Socialist Party won more than 300 of the 335 mayoral offices amid a boycott by three of the four major opposition parties: Justice First, Popular Will and Democratic Action.

Masuro said opposition parties had "disappeared from the political map,"

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Voice of America reported around 47 percent of eligible voters cast ballots compared with 58 percent in municipal elections four years ago as an alliance of major opposition called Maduro a dictator.

During a speech late Sunday in the capital's Bolívar Plaza, Maduro said: "We have obtained a big victory! A popular, democratic, free, sovereign victory of an independent country.

"The imperialists have tried to set fire to Venezuela to take our riches."

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As a crowd chanted, "Go Home, Donald Trump," the president said: "We've defeated the American imperialists with our votes, our ideas, truths, reason and popular will."

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In November, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned 10 Venezuelan government officials it says interfered with the country's elections one month earlier.

In the gubernatorial elections, opposition candidates won five of 23 races amid allegations of official vote-buying and other irregularities.

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In July, Maduro won a referendum rewriting the country's constitution restricted the powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

In August, an order by U.S. President Donald Trump prohibited debt and equity transactions with the Venezuelan government and its state-run oil company.

Maduro is expected to seek re-election next year despite an approval rating of 31 percent, which is up from single digits since 2015, as well as soaring inflation, and shortages of food and medicine.

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