By Alejandra Arredondo/Voice of America (VOA)Edited by Diálogo Staff August 31, 2020 Venezuela is now less prepared for free and fair elections than it was in 2018, when the results of the presidential elections were rejected by more than two dozen countries, U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliot Abrams said on July 28.“The conditions for free and fair elections are actually much worse today than they were in May 2018, when [Nicolás] Maduro held the presidential elections,” Abrams said in a phone press conference.The Nicolás Maduro regime has called for new parliamentary elections for December 6, 2020, a measure that the opposition has criticized as another attempt to squelch their political representation.Civil rights groups have denounced the elections, which seek to renew the opposition-controlled National Assembly, as designed to favor the ruling party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV, in Spanish).“The parliamentary elections in December are already rigged,” Abrams said, as he pointed to the National Electoral Council (CNE, in Spanish), an institution under government control designed to regulate elections and whose members were appointed by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ, in Spanish).“The CNE […] is supposed to be an independent body […], however, the TSJ stopped negotiations to elect the members and appointed them itself,” Abrams said.U.S. in contact with Norway about VenezuelaThe diplomat also spoke about the visit of Norwegian government representatives, who have attempted to mediate a solution to Venezuela’s crisis. Abrams said that the United States is in contact with Norway and that he has spoken with some Norwegian diplomats.“As for the Norwegians, we are, of course, in contact with Norway, and I’ve spoken to Norwegian diplomats since the return of the group that was in Caracas — a difficult trip for them if you think about it, from Oslo to Caracas in a time of COVID,” he said.“I can’t say that I feel particularly optimistic about this trip, because it seems that the regime has already made up its mind […]; it seems to want to go forward with this phony election,” the U.S. official said.Venezuela and North KoreaThe United Nations (U.N.) warned Maduro that the military agreement with North Korea would violate Security Council regulations. U.N. investigators discovered that Diosdado Cabello himself signed that agreement.In this respect, Abrams said that a violation of U.N. sanctions is potentially serious for the Maduro regime, because many countries would be willing to impose sanctions, although they have not yet done so individually.“It also shows, again, the nature of this regime. We’ve seen recently the regime begin to build its relationship with Iran. Iran, Venezuela, a pair of pariah states. Iran and North Korea now — North Korea and Venezuela. And I think one of the other impacts, besides the potential sanctions themselves, is reminding countries worldwide about the nature of this regime and the partners that it seeks worldwide,” Abrams said.
City need no reminding of the quality of the Spanish giants having been beaten by them four times in the Champions League over the past two seasons. This year’s losses in February and March were particularly one-sided and Barca again underlined their class on the highest stage with a stunning Lionel Messi-inspired defeat of Bayern Munich this week. Press Association Pellegrini feels City need a star player who can have a similar effect on his team as Messi does at the Nou Camp, but he believes there is much more to Barca than the Argentinian. He said: “First we need to find another Messi! He makes the difference, without doubt, like (Cristiano) Ronaldo at Real Madrid. “But last year Barcelona didn’t win any titles. Messi is an important player but it’s not just Messi. You need a lot of things around him to be an important team. “I said when we played against Barcelona we were very unlucky, that both years we had to play against the best team in the world, with Messi included. “I think what Barcelona did against Bayern is no surprise for anyone, and not to me. Now they are demonstrating that I was not so wrong in what I said.” Pellegrini hopes that City’s star striker Sergio Aguero can be that man. Aguero has again been outstanding at times this season, scoring 28 goals for City – but injuries have again prevented him realising his full potential. Pellegrini said: “It’s important for Kun to improve every year, to play all the games. Maybe next year we’ll see another Kun because he is working differently, he is growing every year. “I hope he will be as important here as those players are at their teams.” With City having laboured throughout the season and meekly surrendered their Barclays Premier League crown, the gulf between the two clubs seems huge. But City have still come a long way in a relatively short period and manager Pellegrini has no doubt the ambitious club will eventually reach the European summit. The Chilean said: “The project at this club is to improve every year, to grow every year as a club, in all senses, in every department, young players, first team. “It’s not easy to compare, not the whole history, but this club in the last seven years, has had the amount of money you need to compete with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern, Manchester United – the most important teams of the world that can spend more money and have the best players. “Maybe a lot of people are nervous because you don’t do it in three, four, five years. All these projects need a long time and every year you must demonstrate that you are growing and improving. “This season we are really seeing again the Barcelona we saw a few years ago. “But there is a lot of things we can try to reduce the distance between our team and them. I am sure we are going to do it sooner than five years.” Messi’s virtuoso two-goal performance in Barca’s midweek success has again seen him hailed as the greatest player in the world, a title he has frequently laid claim to over the past decade. Manuel Pellegrini believes Manchester City can reach the level of Barcelona within five years.