January 25, 2018 / 6:48 PM / 10 months ago

U.S. rejects new Venezuela election plan - official

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures as he arrives for the swearing in ceremony of the newly elected governor of Zuila state Omar Prieto (not pictured), in Maracaibo, Venezuela December 16, 2017. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Venezuela’s planned presidential election undermines the oil exporter’s democratic constitutional order and the results will not be accepted as legitimate, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Thursday.

The official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the possibility of new U.S. economic sanctions against Venezuela was always under consideration in response to the situation in the country.

Venezuela’s presidential election race has begun with favourite and incumbent Nicolas Maduro signalling a nationalist, “anti-Trump” campaign while his demoralized foes scramble to find a viable candidate for a vote they predict will be unfair.

Critics of the 55-year-old Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chavez in 2013, say he has ruined a once prosperous oil economy, turned Venezuela into a dictatorship and skewed the election system to perpetuate power for his Socialist Party.

“What’s going on in Venezuela is a complete undermining of democratic, constitutional order,” said the U.S. official. “These elections will be illegitimate, the results of which will ... not be recognised.”

Asked if the U.S. government was considering a new round of economic sanctions on Venezuela, the official said, “They are always under consideration.”

Foes accuse Maduro of turning the OPEC nation into a dictatorship, while he says he is the victim of a U.S.-led right-wing conspiracy to eliminate socialism — a view that the U.S. official rejected.

“This is not between the United States and Venezuela. This is Venezuela breaking with its own constitutional order and the international community saying this is unacceptable,” he said.

Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; writing by David Alexander; editing by Doina Chiacu

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