A pro-democracy foundation run by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has shut down its 13-year-old electoral observation office in Venezuela as the South American country gears up for closely watched legislative elections. In a monthly report on Venezuela’s political outlook published Wednesday, the Carter Center said it closed its Caracas office May 31 to concentrate its limited resources in other countries that have solicited its help. It said it would continue to monitor events from the center’s headquarters in Atlanta. The Carter Center has been a frequent observer of elections in Venezuela and it mediated talks between the socialist government and opposition following a 2002 coup that briefly unseated then President Hugo Chavez.
But members of the Venezuelan opposition have long viewed its activities and access to the government with mistrust, a sentiment reflected in hard-liners’ celebration of its departure on social media. Particularly irksome was the center’s validation of a 2004 recall referendum won by Chavez amid complaints that the process leading up to the vote heavily favored the government and his 2012 declaration that Venezuela’s election process was the “best in the world.”
The Carter Center’s departure comes as pressure is building on President Nicolas Maduro to invite outside observers for the important December legislative election that already has some on both sides talking of fraud by their opponents.