CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the reopening of the country’s consulate in Miami, home to a sizeable anti-government community, before presidential elections on April 22, reversing a move by his predecessor Hugo Chavez.
Speaking at the country’s Supreme Court late Wednesday, Maduro said he had received a request from Miami’s Venezuelan community to open the consulate so they could vote in the hastily arranged election, announced last week.
“I have given the instruction to the foreign minister to proceed immediately to open the Miami consulate so that all Venezuelans can enroll in the electoral registry,” Maduro said.
“In Venezuela there will be no coup d’etat. In Venezuela so there will be presidential elections and the people will decide who is their president in a free way.”
On Tuesday, the Lima group of 14 Latin American countries plus Canada said the election would not be free and fair as long as Venezuela has political prisoners, the opposition was not fully participating and Venezuelans abroad were not allowed to vote.
They urged the government to present a new electoral calendar. Several members, notably including Colombia, have said they would not recognize the results of the election.
Colombia and Brazil tightened border controls with Venezuela last week as they grapple with an influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing the economic crisis in Venezuela.
Venezuela’s Miami consulate was closed in 2012 by Chavez, just before his final presidential election before dying of cancer early the following year.
The decision left thousands of Venezuelans in Florida without consular representation. Many traveled to other states to vote in the election.
(Reporting by Deisy BuitragoWriting by Girish GuptaEditing by Chizu Nomiyama)