Argentina's incoming foreign minister urges fair vote in Venezuela

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2015 4:19 PM

By Richard Lough

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro must be encouraged to ensure Sunday's parliamentary election is democratic, Argentina's Foreign Minister-designate Susana Malcorra said on Wednesday.

Malcorra's comments followed a call from Argentine President-elect Mauricio Macri for Venezuela to be suspended from regional trade bloc Mercosur because of rights abuse accusations, including jailing political opponents.

"We must encourage the Venezuelan government that Sunday be handled within the strictest democratic framework," Malcorra, who was U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon's chief adviser before taking up the ministerial post, told reporters in Buenos Aires.

Center-right Macri's tough stance against Maduro's socialist government has opened up divisions within Mercosur, with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff expressing concern over the idea of sidelining Venezuela from the bloc.

"Now, to use that democratic clause, you cannot just have a hypothesis. You need to prove a fact," Rousseff said in Paris earlier this week.

Macri is due to meet Rousseff in Brazil on Friday. His advisers call the bilateral relationship with Brazil, Argentina's main trade partner, a top foreign policy priority. [nL8N1385MI]

Malcorra said discussions between Argentina and Brazil needed to include evaluating how Venezuela's political system moves forward in the coming days.

"We need to see what the result of the election is and the reaction to the result," Malcorra said.

Venezuela's opposition was quick to hail Macri's narrow win over ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli as a blow for leftists in Latin America and a good omen for their own battle with "Chavismo" in the parliamentary vote. [nL1N13I0JS]

Malcorra's comments risked further angering top Venezuelan officials. Last week, Venezuela's second most powerful official rebuked Macri for offending a brother nation and told Macri to "leave the Venezuelan people alone, don't mess with us."

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Venezuela's opposition is trying to win control of the National Assembly on Sunday for the first time in more than 15 years, seeking to tap anger over the recession-hit economy.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)