Venezuela opposition vows voter secrecy for primaries

Opposition parties in Venezuela, where there are fears the government may have access to voter data, on Wednesday promised ballot secrecy for primaries in October to determine President Nicolas Maduro's election challenger.

"Citizens can rest assured that their identity will not be compromised," Jesus Maria Casal, who leads the body in charge of organizing the primary election, told reporters in Caracas.

"We are committed to protecting the identity of voters. This is one of our inviolable principles," he said.

Casal did not specify how this would be done.

He addressed journalists after the creation of a technical committee to act as a bridge between his commission for opposition primaries and the National Electoral Council (CNE) widely seen as in cahoots with the executive.

Many in the opposition are wary of the CNE's role in the upcoming primary round.

The presidential election is scheduled for 2024.

The opposition in Venezuela, backed by a large swathe of the international community, did not recognize Maduro's re-election in 2018 in a vote widely dismissed as fraudulent.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido was recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela's de facto leader after the 2018 vote.

Guaido led a symbolic "interim government" from 2019 until January this year, with support from the United States and recognition from dozens of other countries but no real power within Venezuela.

The opposition voted to disband the interim government in January and replaced Guaido as the head of a parallel congress made up of opposition lawmakers.

He has already announced he would stand in the primary vote, as has two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.

However, both have been banned by authorities from holding public office under court rulings rejected by the opposition as deeply flawed.

Their eligibility is one of the contentious matters under discussion in Mexico-hosted peace talks between the opposition and government, which have been suspended since November.

Venezuela's official Congress is made up almost exclusively of lawmakers aligned with Maduro and who were elected in 2021 in a vote boycotted by the opposition.