Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro addresses the media in Caracas
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro addresses the media in Caracas Reuters / LEONARDO FERNANDEZ VILORIA

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been selected to seek a third, successive term in July 28 elections, a senior ruling party official said Monday.

A vote by the PSUV party concluded that Maduro would be its presidential candidate, said Diosdado Cabello, considered the number 2 in the ruling movement which was founded by the late Hugo Chavez and has been in power for 25 years.

Maduro, 61, has not made any announcement himself, but has been widely expected to seek reelection in a vote from which his main opposition challenger has been barred from running.

"We will continue to travel throughout our country in the construction of more and more force and citizen organization to achieve electoral victory this year," Maduro said in his weekly television program after Cabello's announcement on X, to which he made no reference.

A formal PSUV announcement had been scheduled for March 15, but that appears to be a mere formality now.

Maduro's re-election to a six-year term in 2018 -- widely considered fraudulent -- was not recognized by the United States and dozens of other countries, and was met with a string of sanctions.

Many countries instead recognized his poll rival Juan Guaido as interim president.

Four years later Maduro, 61, is still firmly in charge of the oil-rich nation after his rival's shadow government collapsed and the war in Ukraine choked energy supplies and shifted global priorities.

He enjoys support from a political patronage system, the military, as well as Cuba, Russia and China.

Last week, Venezuela's electoral authority CNE announced elections will be held on July 28 in the South American country in dire economic straits.

That came after Maduro's government and the opposition agreed in Barbados last year to hold a free and fair vote in 2024 with international observers present.

Opposition candidates would be allowed under the deal to appeal court rulings disqualifying them from holding office.

The agreement saw the United States ease sanctions against Venezuela, allowing US-based Chevron to resume limited crude extraction and leading to a prisoner swap.

Since then, however, the Supreme Court loyal to Maduro upheld a 15-year ban on opposition primary winner Maria Corina Machado and others, prompting Washington to consider reimposing sanctions.

In January, the controversial leader said the Barbados agreement was "mortally wounded" after government authorities claimed to have foiled numerous US-backed plots to assassinate him.

Maduro has increased his public appearances in recent weeks, ahead of the electoral campaign period that will officially open on July 4.

The country's National Electoral Council said last week it had sent invitations to election observers from the European Union and United Nations, the US-based Carter Center NGO, BRICS and the African Union, among others.

The vote will take place on the birthday of Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez, still hailed by many Venezuelans as a revolutionary hero.

Presidential hopefuls can officially file their candidacy with the CNE between March 21 and 25.