Maduro’s strongest challenger, barred from running, picks a stand-in

CARACAS, Venezuela — María Corina Machado, the popular Venezuelan opposition leader who has been barred from challenging authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro in this year’s election, said Friday she would end her effort to get on the ballot and instead throw her support behind a substitute candidate.

“We have found an honorable person whom I trust,” Machado told reporters. “My fight is not over. We are going to fight until the last day.

“We are not allowing the regime to have any excuses.”

After months of harassment by Venezuela’s socialist government, and days before registration for the July election is due to close, Machado encouraged her supporters to vote for Corina Yoris Villasana, a comparatively low-profile academic who has been approved to run.

Yoris, 79, is a professor of logic and debating theory who has taught at Spain’s University of Salamanca and other institutions, Machado’s team said. She has never held political office.

She said Friday the country was headed toward a “transition” and that “we all need to walk this together.” She had yet to register as a candidate.

Machado, 56, an industrial engineer and former National Assembly member, won an opposition primary in December with more than 92 percent of the vote. But the government called the primary invalid, and the Supreme Court agreed this year that she would be ineligible to run.

The Maduro government told the Biden administration this year it would hold free and fair elections in exchange for relief from U.S. sanctions on the state-run oil industry, and Machado continued to campaign.

Two members of her team were arrested this week on accusations of planning violent acts against the government and arrest warrants were issued for seven more.

Machado called the accusations “completely false”; the United States condemned them.

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