Venezuelan opposition candidate Edmundo Gonzalez said Saturday he will ensure all political parties are free to operate if he ousts President Nicolás Maduro in a vote in July, and called on the military to defend the country’s institutions. As intended by the constitution.

Gonzalez, a former ambassador to Algeria and Argentina, was nominated by the opposition Unitary Platform coalition in April as its candidate after a ban on primary winner Maria Corina Machado from remaining in office was upheld by the Supreme Court.

The opposition has said Machado’s ban is illegal and an attempt by Maduro’s government, which has overseen a deep economic crisis in the country, to suppress support for the opposition in the July 28 presidential election.

Standing on a large truck bed, Gonzalez and Machado spoke to a crowd of about 3,000 people in La Victoria, Gonzalez’s hometown in central Aragua state.

Gonzalez said he will ensure that political movements can exercise their rights under the Constitution, urging voters to imagine a country “where the president does not insult or see his opponents as enemies.”

“To the national armed forces – you play a fundamental role in the security of us all, being guarantors of the institutions under article 328 of the Constitution,” said Gonzalez, 74.

The previously low-key Gonzalez told Reuters this month that he believes Maduro’s government would have banned him from office by now if it wanted to.

Machado appealed to voters to support Gonzalez, whom she calls a “good and honest” man, and held campaign events displaying large images of him.

If the opposition fails to win the elections, supporter Marian Tesorero, 22, said: “I will leave the country. I can’t take this anymore.”

Tesorero, who is finishing her secondary studies after being forced to interrupt them years ago for economic reasons, said she dreams of attending university and meeting her young niece, who was born abroad, the daughter of her migrant sister.

“We must win because we want something better. There must be a change,” said Tesorero’s mother, Jenifer Escobar, 51.

Gonzalez will appear on the ballot on behalf of three opposition parties, while Maduro, who is seeking his third re-election, will appear on behalf of 13, including his Socialist Party.

Machado and Gonzalez have demonstrated harmony, and Machado’s campaign featuring a photograph of Gonzalez “is working,” said Saul Cabrera, president of local consultancy Consultores 21.

A recent poll by the company showed that 50% of voters support Gonzalez, with 32% in favor of Maduro. The survey had a margin of error of 3.16%.

At a ruling party event in La Victoria, Socialist Party leader Diosdado Cabello said the opposition’s “vicious project against the country” will be defeated.

Via Reuters.


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