The Venezuelan judiciary has confirmed the disqualification of opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, who, a few months ago, secured a decisive victory in an internal consultation to lead the opposition’s presidential candidacy in Venezuela. This ruling, which sidelines Machado from the national political arena for fifteen years, renders the Barbados Agreements—a pact signed between President Nicolas Maduro’s government and the opposition—ineffective.
The US agreement with Venezuela is currently stalled, as is the partial lifting of sanctions. The US had contemplated further easing sanctions in return for Venezuela’s compliance with agreements to ensure democratic and transparent presidential elections, slated for later this year. This is despite the elections not being officially announced yet.
This ruling also disqualifies another prominent opposition figure, Henrique Capriles, in this case until 2032. Capriles had expressed his support for the opposition unity candidate, who is now excluded from the presidential race.
Maria Corina Machado reaction
The ruling addresses the international sanctions imposed on Venezuela in 2019, following allegations of electoral manipulation during the 2018 elections. These elections confirmed Nicolas Maduro’s leadership for an additional six years, extending his tenure until January 2025. The ruling also implicates Machado in the confiscation of Venezuelan assets abroad, a measure stemming from the sanctions policy against the country.
Maria Corina Machado has responded by declaring that ‘the regime has decided to terminate the Barbados Agreement.’ This agreement, established in October 2023, laid the groundwork for a democratic contest in this year’s presidential elections. ‘However, what will not cease is our fight for the triumph of democracy via free and fair elections,’ stated the disqualified opposition candidate.
Machado pointed out that “Maduro and his criminal system chose the worst way for them: fraudulent elections”; she defied the ruler, assuring that “that is not going to happen” and confirmed that she will continue to fight to oust the current head of state from power in Venezuela.
Capriles, also out of the political game
In the same court ruling, Henrique Capriles, a two-time opposition candidate, was disqualified from participating in Venezuelan politics until 2032. The court denied a request to review his disqualification, confirming today that he ‘does not meet the established requirements’ outlined in the Agreement signed in Barbados between the Venezuelan state and the opposition.
“Venezuelan people’s aspirations for change cannot be disqualified,” stated Capriles on his social networks, following the court’s announcement. He emphasized the dream of a Venezuela where there is a Constitution and laws equally respected by all, a government that prioritizes the welfare and quality of life of its citizens, and where aging is seen as a reward, not a punishment. “A democratic Venezuela for everyone, where opportunities and prosperity abound, a country no one leaves and to which those who have left can return, finding a land of well-being,” he added.
US warns it will review sanctions
The United States has expressed concern over the judicial decision, describing it as ‘deeply troubling.’ In response, the U.S. announced it is reviewing the temporary lifting of sanctions against Venezuela, which was initiated three months ago
Responding to the United Democratic Platform, a coalition of Venezuelan opposition groups under the Barbados Agreement, U.S. officials stated that disqualifying the primary winner from Venezuela’s democratic opposition contradicts the Maduro government’s pledge to conduct competitive presidential elections.
In October 2023, Machado secured 90% of the votes in the opposition’s internal consultation, uniting the candidacy to challenge Nicolas Maduro in this year’s election.
The United States alleges that Maria Corina Machado was not afforded a legitimate right to defense against the accusations resulting in her disqualification.
The immediate future
The US finds itself in a difficult situation, compelled to assert a strong stance against the Venezuelan president and his tactics that render the opposition’s choices unfeasible. Concurrently, the US requires Venezuelan oil.
Nothing has transpired about the future of the political process in Venezuela, after the opposition’s main trump card was thrown out of the electoral game. Maduro, aware of the Americans’ need for his resources, continues to force diplomacy and the democratic game, even though the country is under threat of a return to the tougher sanctions that have depleted the options and the daily lives of its citizens.
In the coming weeks and months, new moves are expected on this strategic chessboard that will shape the uncertain future of a country where change is, for now, stalemated. Venezuelan politics continue to be mired in conflict and judicial obstacles, in a context of sanctions that are suffocating a country mired in an unprecedented crisis that threatens to return with full force.