Both the U.S. and Colombia have declared that the upcoming Venezuelan presidential election is invalid as socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro seeks to elect himself to power for a further six years.
During a bilateral press conference between President Juan Manuel Santos and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, the pair agreed that they would not recognize the result.
“We now have the summoning of presidential elections, elections that, in our view, are not valid because they offer no guarantees whatsoever, none, and will not offer any guarantees,” said Santos. “Maduro would never, never accept participating in free, clean elections because he knows he will lose. And under those conditions, it will be impossible for Colombia.”
“Our only objective is to see Venezuela return to its constitution, return its duly-elected assembly, and to hold free and fair elections and give the Venezuelan people the right for their voices to be heard in elections,” added Tillerson.
Maduro has already announced that the main opposition parties are banned from participating, a decision certified by the regime-controlled Supreme Court, meaning any opposition will likely be for show.
Analysts widely believe that any voting process will, therefore, be purely for appearance, with Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) having already stolen numerous elections over the past decade, including the last presidential election against Justice First leader Henrique Capriles Radonski.
Santos and Tillerson held the meeting as part of the Secretary of State’s tour of Latin America, where he aims to promote the Trump administration’s foreign policy with the issues of Venezuelan crisis and the reversal of Barack Obama’s “Cuban Thaw” highest on the agenda.
On Monday, Tillerson opened the possibility of the U.S. blocking imports of Venezuelan oil in a bid to exert further pressure on the Maduro regime, who is now presiding over the worst humanitarian and economic crisis in the country, while also ratcheting up levels of repression and human rights abuses against political dissidents.
However, some Latin American countries fear that additional sanctions could worsen the country’s unprecedented humanitarian crisis that has left millions of people starving and without basic resources to live.
Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have already emigrated to neighboring countries including Colombia, who have called for greater international aid to help ease the crisis as many of the migrants require humanitarian assistance.
“We are all heartbroken by what we see happening in Venezuela, such a great a country, and we are also heartbroken to see the impact it’s having on Colombia,” Tillerson added. “And we appreciate Colombia’s efforts to deal with the situation of so many Venezuelans seeking refuge here in Colombia as the situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate.