US escalates warnings ahead of Zimbabwe elections

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Some Mugabe opponents are worried the State Department's stated desire to normalize relations with the resource-rich country could lead the Obama administration to overlook electoral flaws. In an op-ed for The Hill earlier this week, opposition envoy Ralph Black said the U.S. should retain its sanctions on the diamond trade if Mugabe wins.

“These elections present an important opportunity for Zimbabwe to improve its relationship with the United States by holding elections that are regarded as peaceful, credible, and transparent by a broad range of international observers,” Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto testified last month.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs subpanel on Africa, said Tuesday the United States and other countries should hold Zimbabwe “accountable” if the elections aren't fair.

“With only two weeks remaining until scheduled elections in Zimbabwe, I am increasingly concerned about the trajectory of the nation’s democratic prospects,” he said. “While we have not witnessed widespread violence so far, the absence of pre-election violence is not the same as a free and fair election. African and international partners should hold the government of Zimbabwe accountable to the letter and spirit of the Zimbabwe’s constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly and expression, and the political neutrality of security forces.”

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