Venezuela sets presidential vote for April 22 after talks crumble

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The Venezuelan government and the opposition had carried out a new round of talks in Santo Domingo after it was announced that presidential elections would be brought forward to April.

The head of Venezuela's electoral authority, Tibisay Lucena, made the announcement Wednesday evening.

Elections were set to take place in December 2018, but the ruling socialist party feared that external support for the right-wing opposition coalition could strengthen the anti-government movement over the coming months.

President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, reaffirmed on Sunday that the government delegation is ready to sign the agreement of peace and coexistence with the opposition of that country.

There is a risk the perennially squabbling opposition will split over strategy, with some boycotting the vote and others backing several different candidates.

"Beyond severe criticism, I have the obligation to reach agreements for the peace of the country", the president reiterated.

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Opponents say the government is rigging the election in advance by barring Maduro's strongest rivals - opposition politicians Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles - and failing to reform a company.

Two opposition leaders, former President of the National Assembly Henry Ramos and ex-governor of Lara state Henri Falcon, have also announced presidential aspirations.

"We are beginning a series of meetings with political parties and opposition sectors to create a big national front representing the Venezuelan society, which stands firmly on its rights", he said in a statement cited by the Democratic Unity Roundtable party.

During talks in recent weeks in the Dominican Republic, the opposition lobbied for the vote to be held in June to give it time to choose a candidate, as its top two leaders are barred from running.

The opposition said the government would not budge on issues including freedom for jailed opposition activists or humanitarian aid for hungry and ill Venezuelans.

Venezuelan government representatives have accused the United States of attempting to "sabotage" the talks, claiming that the opposition was receiving instructions from the U.S. administration.

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