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Venezuela refuses visa extension for EU observers amid spying suspicion

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Officials finalize details on official vehicles during the deployment of the EU observation mission in Caracas, Venezuela, on October 28, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Venezuela has reportedly denied visa extensions for electoral observers from the European Union, a move that would potentially lead to the expulsion of what President Nicolas Maduro called “spies” from the Latin American country.

The European observers came to Venezuela to monitor the country’s regional and local elections on November 21, with members of the delegation's leadership saying at the time that they would remain until December 13.

The mission, which was scheduled to leave next Monday, was informed that the government in Caracas had declined to renew the visas of its members, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

"There was not an extension of the stay so they must leave this weekend," said the source, who declined to be identified because they are not authorized to speak on the record.

The source did not specify why the visas were not extended.

Following the vote last month, the observers issued a preliminary report in which they assured that the Venezuelan municipal and regional elections showed improvements compared to previous processes but also claimed that they still had “major democratic deficiencies.”

Last week, Maduro lashed out at the EU election observers as “spies,” dismissing their claim that the vote was marred by irregularities.

"Those who came as enemies, the delegation of spies from the European Union, found not a bit of evidence to criticize the electoral system," Maduro said of the November 21 polls for gubernatorial and mayoral posts in the oil-rich Central American nation.

Maduro’s ruling socialist party claimed a landslide victory in the country’s first vote to include top opposition parties in nearly four years, bagging 20 of the 23 gubernatorial offices and the mayorship of the capital Caracas.

The opposition parties, ending their three-year boycott of regional elections, walked away with the remaining three posts.

The November vote marked the first time in 15 years that the EU sent a team to observe Venezuela’s elections.

The mission included 1,000 observers who monitored voting in 22 out of 23 polls. The full report is expected to be released in two months.

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