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Senate Democrats file resolution condemning Venezuela’s “sham election”

Supporters gather at Diego Ibarra square to listen Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speak after a ceremony formalizing Maduro's candidacy as a candidate for the upcoming presidential election, in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018.
Supporters gather at Diego Ibarra square to listen Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speak after a ceremony formalizing Maduro's candidacy as a candidate for the upcoming presidential election, in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. AP

Congressional Democrats on Tuesday introduced a resolution condemning the Venezuelan government’s proposed presidential contest in April as a “sham election” and calling for the vote to be postponed until minimal electoral standards are met.

Spearheaded by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the resolution calls for “free and fair” elections that allow inspection by credible international observers. The document condemns steps it charges President Nicolas Maduro has taken to consolidate authoritarian power and undermine democratic institutions like the National Assembly of Venezuela and Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

“President Maduro’s government has used repressive tactics to undermine democracy in Venezuela and silence the voices of his own people,” Durbin said. “Attempting to buy votes with food during a period of widespread hunger is cruel and unacceptable, and any election held under these circumstances must be considered illegitimate in the eyes of the world.”

Ten senators joined Durbin on the resolution, including Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Chris Coons, D-Del., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Attempting to buy votes with food during a period of widespread hunger is cruel and unacceptable, and any election held under these circumstances must be considered illegitimate in the eyes of the world.

Sen. Dick Durbin

Maduro danced Tuesday in front of supporters at a rally outside the National Electoral Council in Caracas after officially signing up to run for re-election. He blames the oil-rich nation’s economic crisis, which has driven many Venezuelans out of the country and left millions starving, on U.S. sanctions and efforts to overthrow his regime.

The Senate resolution aligns the Democratic senators with the Trump administration, on this issue at least, and hemispheric allies, including Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, which have rejected Venezuelan government efforts to hold elections on April 22.

“Proud to join @SenateDems in condemning Maduro's latest scheme to bulldoze over the remnants of democracy in Venezuela. We are calling on the regime to delay their sham elections until basic electoral standards are met. #SOSVenezuela #VZ,” Menendez tweeted.

The group praised Peruvian leaders who did not invite President Maduro to this year’s Summit of the Americas. They also supported an investigation by the International Criminal Court to examine the Venezuelan government’s use of torture and excessive force in arbitrary detentions against Venezuelan citizens.

“The Senate rejects the Venezuelan Government’s efforts to blame the country’s economic, humanitarian, and political crisis on other actors instead of recognizing that the crisis was caused by its own malfeasance and criminality,” the resolution reads.

As Venezuela’s economy continues to crumble, thousands of its citizens are trekking into Colombia every day — sometimes by walking hundreds of miles on foot through the Andes — to escape chronic shortages of food and medicine, frequent looting and

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