Venezuela: Far-Right Opposition Leader Clings to Candidacy Despite Political Ban

With a looming deadline, Machado has been under pressure to endorse an alternative but has thus far rejected the idea of naming a replacement.
Opposition leader María Corina Machado addresses supporters in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela (@mariacorinaya / Facebook)

Mexico City, Mexico, March 19, 2024 ( – Far-right politician María Corina Machado has reaffirmed her intention to represent the opposition in the presidential election despite an official disqualification and a looming deadline to register candidacies.

In a video shared Sunday on social media, Machado said the parties backing her candidacy would not abandon the “electoral path” in order to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power. 

According to the official electoral calendar determined by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), elections will be held on July 28 and parties have until March 25 to register candidates. 

The Venezuelan Supreme Court ratified Machado’s 15-year ban from holding public office in January and it was later confirmed by the country’s electoral authority, meaning her name will not appear on the ballot. 

As a result of the looming registration deadline, Machado has been under pressure to put forward an alternative but has thus far rejected the idea of naming a replacement. 

Machado, who won a controversial primary contest in October, has insisted that her ban is a violation of the Barbados Agreement, a document signed by the government and the self-styled “Unitary Platform” establishing conditions for the upcoming presidential vote. She has also repeatedly complained that the schedule set out by the CNE contravenes the accords as well, despite the fact that a broad group of political parties submitted calendar proposals. 

In her message, Machado again insisted that only she had the legitimacy to represent the “Unitary Platform” in the election, a view shared by her backers in Washington. According to AP, the Biden administration has not asked Machado to step aside. 

The hardline former lawmaker recently spoke via video with US Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a longtime foreign policy hawk, who has presented a bill alongside Representative Maria Elvira Salazar that would impose further sanctions on Venezuelan officials.

The Venezuelan government has consistently maintained that the Barbados Agreement did not provide carte blanche for the opposition to name anyone as the candidate since it specifies that presidential hopefuls could run provided they do not break the law or violate the Venezuelan Constitution.

After the dialogue delegations established a procedure to review disqualifications, Machado initially refused to challenge her ban only to reverse course at the last minute and submit her appeal, which was subsequently denied.

Some prominent opposition leaders including Gerardo Blyde, who leads negotiations on behalf of the opposition, are holding out hope that her disqualification will be reversed. Blyde has ruled out running himself as a replacement for Machado.

Henrique Capriles, who twice competed against Maduro in election, has called on Machado to step down given the increasingly slim possibility that her ban will be lifted. Political analysts have likewise referred to increasing backroom talks lobbying Machado to name a proxy candidate.

The far-right politician has nonetheless clung to her candidacy, promising in her video to “take the right decisions” in her efforts to oust Maduro from power. Machado said the “international community” backs her interpretation of the Barbados Agreement and claimed the upcoming vote would not be recognized if she does not make it to the ballot. She has repeatedly stated that “there will be no elections without me.”

Following the signing of the October agreement, the US approved licenses that provided a limited easing of sanctions. Washington has threatened a snap back of sanctions should she be excluded from the ballot. Following the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruling, the US revoked a sanctions waiver allowing transactions with Venezuelan state-owned gold mining firm Minerven. 

The Venezuelan government for its part seems unconcerned with threats from Washington aimed at forcing Machado’s inclusion. 

“The Barbados agreement is part of the policy of blackmail and extortion against Venezuela. The truth is that we are prepared to live without licenses from the United States and to continue defeating the criminal blockade,” said Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez at a political forum in Bolivia last week. 

At a packed political congress in the capital, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) formally nominated Maduro as its candidate for the July 28 presidential election. On his weekly broadcast, Maduro warned that elements of the opposition could resort to “terrorist” actions, including acts of sabotage against public services, to destabilize  the country ahead of the vote and called on state security officials to remain on high alert.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.