The Summit of the Americas (SOA) is scheduled to begin in Lima, Peru tomorrow. The meeting of regional leaders is expected to heavily feature the Venezuelan crisis.

After initially threatening to attend the summit despite repeated assertion by the government of Peru that he would not be allowed to enter the country, Maduro finally conceded two weeks ago that the summit is “a waste of time” and that he would not participate.

U.S. vice president Mike Pence will meet with Venezuelan opposition leaders this week as part of his visit to Peru. Pence is in the country as the ranking member of the Trump administration attending the SOA.

It is not clear at this time when the meeting will take place, or which Venezuelan figures will be in attendance.

Former Caracas mayor and exiled opposition leader Antonio Ledezma is in Peru to participate in the summit. Earlier today, he met with Peruvian foreign affairs minister Netor Popolizio, and the two spoke about the Venezuelan crisis. When discussion how the country could move forward, Ledezma told Popolizio:

Restoring freedom in Venezuela will only be possible with the [Maduro] regime leaving power, [which would allow] the start of a transition process that would let us achieve the political, economic and social recovery of our country in the shortest possible amount of time.

During the meeting, Ledezma also pointed out that Maduro and other regime officials are “involved in human rights violations” in the country, and that many are suspected of having “ties to drug trafficking and terrorism” .Ledezma said that defeating the Maduro regime would require both a strong set of national leaders, as well as “support from the international community”.

The deposed mayor of Caracas also said that the upcoming May 20 presidential election is “a farce” meant to disguise the fact that Venezuela is a dictatorship.

While formal meetings are not scheduled to begin until tomorrow, civil society and other groups from the region did host workshops under the umbrella of the SOA today. During a meeting featuring Organization of American States (OAS) secretary general Luis Almagro, a group of demonstrators began shouting pro-regime slogans at Almagro and briefly interrupted the proceedings.

The video below shows some of the demonstrators at the meeting. In the video below, the man in Burgundy repeatedly shouts, “Fidel beat you!”:

The video below also shows the demonstrators disrupting the meeting:

Almagro qualified the display as “regrettable”.

Regime Lays Out Details for May 20 Election

The Maduro regime provided details for conduct of the upcoming May 20 presidential election, which will also see Venezuelans casting votes for their state and municipal legislators. The details came from Tibisay Lucena, the head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral [National Electoral Council] (CNE) during a press conference this morning.

Lucena said that the electoral campaign would begin on April 22, and that all candidates would be given equal access to television and radio channels: four and two minutes per day in each, respectively.

In Venezuela, the law formally restricts when and for how long a candidate for office is allowed to campaign. However, in practice, the regulations only apply to opposition candidates, since PSUV officials are able to campaign at will using state resources, including television networks and radio stations.

Lucena also said that from April 22 until May 20, it will be illegal to “discourage the right to vote”. While it is not clear at this time exactly what speech would constitute discouraging, the prohibition is likely to target opposition figures who have called for voter abstention as a form of protest against the election, which many regime critics consider to be rigged.

2017 Protest Image Wins World Press Photo

The 2017 World Press Photo was awarded today to Ronaldo Schemidt’s image of a protester on fire during last year’s unrest. The dramatic image captured the moment that Jose Victor Salazar, a 28 year-old anti-government demonstrator, became engulfed in flames at a protest in Caracas on May 3.

Salazar was part of a group of demonstrators who were clashing with security forces in the capital’s Altamira neighbourhood that afternoon. Salazar was set ablaze after the gasoline tank of a National Guard motorcycle nearby exploded.

Schemidt is Venezuelan, but had been working in Mexico for the Agencia France-Presse (AFP) when the protests broke out in April of last year.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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