Venezuela's Maduro says ready to run for second term

"I am a humble worker, a man of the people, if the Socialist Party, if the forces of the Great Patriotic Pole, if the working class, women, youth, believe that I should be the presidential candidate of the Fatherland, I am at their orders, " he said during a mobilization in Caracas to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the overthrow of the Marcos Pérez Jiménez dictatorship on January 23, 1958.

Meanwhile, the European Union yesterday announced new sanctions on seven senior Venezuelan officials, saying this was an expression of the bloc's concern with the political crisis under President Nicolas Maduro.

CARACAS-Venezuela will hold presidential elections before the end of April, the government said Tuesday, as President Nicolás Maduro looks to consolidate power amid a punishing economic crisis and escalating global sanctions against his administration. "The Venezuelan people have the right to choose their own destiny". "We have only one candidate to continue with the revolution", he said, as delegates chanted "Nicolas, Nicolas". The opposition alleged there weren't enough guarantees the vote would be free and fair, but the partial boycott highlighted tensions over how best to confront Maduro, whose decision to create the all-powerful constitutional assembly alongside the opposition-controlled National Assembly has been condemned by several foreign governments, including the USA and Canada.

While it was widely expected Maduro would seek another six-year term until now he hadn't directly expressed that desire publicly.

Although polls show Venezuelans overwhelmingly blame Maduro for widespread food shortages and triple-digit inflation that has pulverized wages, the opposition was left rudderless as several prominent politicians were barred from office or forced into exile past year following a deadly protest movement seeking the president's removal.

"The government and its leaders annoy the majority of Venezuelans", he tweeted, urging the opposition to "unite to save democracy".

VENEZUELA-POLITICS
Don't go running' Maduro taunted his opponents during the rally.'Don't abandon Venezuela's democracy

"We do not recognise the national constituency assembly".

The Lima Group, a regional group of Latin American countries, said an election held under the present conditions would lack legitimacy.

It is the closest that Maduro - who assumed power in April 2013 after Chavez died in office from cancer - has come to declaring his candidacy outright.

The EU said they "are involved in the non-respect of democratic principles or the rule of law as well as in the violation of human rights". The opposition plans to hold primaries to choose a candidate, but the hasty presidential vote may make that tricky.

Billionaire Lorenzo Mendoza, president of Venezuela's largest private food production company, Empresas Polar, speaks during a news conference in Caracas on February 2, 2016. The president, Nicholas Maduro, promised that re would be elections in 2018. The name of Lorenzo Mendoza, billionaire head of private food company Polar, is on many people's lips, but he has given no indication of wanting to stand.

  • Jon Douglas