Venezuela: Disqualified Politicians Can Launch Supreme Court Appeal

The most recent statement from the negotiating parties saw Washington climb down from previous demands.
Lead government negotiator Jorge Rodríguez signs an agreement concerning conditions for upcoming presidential elections with opposition chief negotiator Gerardo Blyde in Barbados. (Alba Ciudad)

Mexico City, Mexico, December 1, 2023 ( – The Venezuelan government and the US-backed hardline opposition have agreed to allow the country’s Supreme Court to review the cases of candidates disqualified from running for public office, the parties announced Thursday via Norwegian mediators.

“Today we have taken another step in the right direction, ratifying what was agreed in Barbados, to ensure respect for the decisions of [our] institutions, the rule of law and the Constitution of Venezuela,” said lead government negotiator Jorge Rodríguez.

The opposition and US officials argue that the political agreement signed in Barbados, which lays out conditions for upcoming presidential elections, includes a provision to allow disqualified opposition leaders to run. Meanwhile, Caracas maintains that the Barbados Accords do not provide for such a measure.

As a result of the agreement, the US Treasury Department issued licenses “suspending select sanctions” on Venezuela but warned that the Biden administration could suspend or revoke them should Washington unilaterally determine that the Venezuelan government has not followed through on agreements.

Thursday’s announcement specifically stems from the political disqualification of María Corina Machado, winner of the opposition’s primary process in October. Machado has fervently maintained that she would not step aside under any circumstance despite being officially disqualified from running for the presidency, with Washington championing the candidacy of the far-right political leader.

White House officials had set a November 30 deadline set by Washington for Venezuelan authorities to lift political bans on opposition leaders or else face a snap back of sanctions.

On Thursday opposition chief negotiator Gerardo Blyde clarified that US officials’ statements referred to a “procedure” that could allow opposition politicians to regain their ability to participate in the upcoming presidential election.

Machado herself warned that the US had the power to use the threat of sanctions in order to coerce the government to include her on the ballot. 

Analysts have claimed that the US’ sanctions policy toward Venezuela is likely to be determined by geopolitical interests, in particular Washington’s interest in keeping oil prices stable, rather than any purported defense of democracy.

The most recent statement from the negotiating parties represents a climbdown from the Biden administration after it had demanded the outright removal of bans against opposition politicians. Washington is not expected to reimplement sanctions as that would likely cause turmoil in international markets. 

Thursday’s announcement also put Machado in the challenging position of having to appeal to the country’s institutions, which she has long claimed to be illegitimate as part of her years-long support for regime change efforts. The interested politicians have until December 15 to file their appeals before the Venezuelan Supreme Court.

The announcement likewise includes language that says that the politicians who apply to get their bans lifted must be committed to “defend the homeland” including its “territorial integrity.” Despite previously defending Venezuela’s claim to the Essequibo region, Machado has recently drawn criticism by calling for the upcoming referendum to be suspended and seeing her comments echoed by Guyanese leaders.

Machado’s disqualification came in 2015 when Venezuela’s Comptroller General suspended her political rights after the far-right leader neglected to disclose the full extent of her earnings during her term as a congresswoman. 

Her ban on holding public office was confirmed earlier this year via an inquiry by José Brito, an opposition lawmaker at odds with Machado’s hardline bloc. Brito subsequently submitted a complaint to the Electoral Branch of the Venezuelan Supreme Court that then opted to suspend the opposition primary process that saw an overwhelming Machado victory.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.