WASHINGTON—House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) released the following statement on efforts by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the country’s National Electoral Council to block a constitutionally mandated presidential recall referendum from taking place this year:

“By blocking efforts to hold a recall referendum this year, President Maduro and the Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE) are standing on the wrong side of history. Out of an obvious fear of facing the Venezuelan electorate, President Maduro has stripped away yet another layer of democracy in the country. Even late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez did not have the audacity to put in place the obstacles we are seeing today when he faced a similar recall vote in 2004.

“We urge the CNE to adhere to the country’s constitutional mechanisms by allowing signature collection for the referendum to take place expeditiously and fairly without the absurd arbitrary requirements that were announced yesterday. To respect the letter and spirit of the Venezuelan constitution, we believe a recall vote must take place this year.

“Latin America is changing. Regional leaders have become increasingly emboldened in speaking up when democracy is in peril. We urge all Organization of American States (OAS) member states to speak up and urge President Maduro and the Venezuelan CNE to reconsider their imprudent decision to block a referendum from taking place this year.”