The government-controlled Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled that Maria Corina Machado, the opposition leader in the presidential run, will not be allowed to run in the election. The announcement, which came on January 26, significantly hinders the democratic transition outlined and agreed upon with the Biden administration and leader Nicolás Maduro.
The ruling upholds the 15-year ban on Machado for being involved in “the corruption plot orchestrated by the usurper Juan Guaido.” Guaido claimed to be the legitimate interim president of Venezuela in 2019 and was recognized by some foreign governments, but was forced into exile in 2023.
In response to the ruling, Machado stated on social media, “Maduro and his criminal system chose the worst path for them: fraudulent elections. That's not going to happen. Let no one doubt it, this is to the end.”
“The United States is currently reviewing our Venezuela sanctions policy, based on this development and the recent political targeting of democratic opposition candidates and civil society,” said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller in response to the news.
A normalization deal signed with the U.S. last October maintained free elections necessary to the deal. In return, they eased economically debilitating sanctions on the oil-exporting country.
U.S. officials stressed that the relief on sanctions was dependent on Caracas lifting bans on opponents holding public office, as well as releasing political prisoners and "unjustly detained" Americans.
Last year, the government of Maduro's ruling socialists reached a deal with the political opposition over talks in Barbados to hold elections sometime during the second half of 2024. Maduro released statements in response to the court ruling that the Barbados deal was in danger due to corruption and conspiracies against him.
With this ruling, the future of Venezuela’s relationship with the US is in flux. Furthermore, the current Venezuelan government is making political moves to stay in power and taking a hardline stance against the possibility of an opposition.
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