Mexico City, Mexico, December 16, 2023 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Far-right Venezuelan opposition leader María Corina Machado reversed her stance and submitted a last-minute appeal of her official disqualification from public office.
“[The Venezuelan government] is looking for excuses to prevent me from participating. That is why we are here today, to show that they are not going to force us to abandon the electoral route […] the ball is in their court,” said Machado upon exiting the offices of the Venezuelan Supreme Court on Friday.
Her decision to present her case before the country’s highest court comes after first refusing to challenge her political prohibition, arguing as recently as Thursday that there was “nothing to appeal.”
Upon leaving the Supreme Court premises, Machado insisted to local reporters that her appeal was to demonstrate that her ban on running for office “does not exist.” The filed document was later posted online.
Ahead of a deadline imposed by the United States, government negotiators reached an agreement last month with the hardline opposition allowing for the country’s Supreme Court to review the cases of candidates presently disqualified from running for public office.
That agreement put Machado, winner of the opposition’s primary process in October, in a challenging position as she has long considered the country’s institutions as illegitimate as part of her years-long support for regime change efforts in Venezuela. She has fervently maintained that she would not step aside in favor of another opposition figure under any circumstance.
Machado had publicly voiced expectations that Washington, which has championed the candidacy of the far-right political leader, would use the threat of sanctions to force Caracas to permit her inclusion on the ballot in the 2024 presidential contest.
Instead, it was the office of the US Embassy in Venezuela that leaked Machado’s decision to abide by the process set out by the negotiators. In a post that was published before Machado could address the media herself, the embassy praised the far-right leader personally for her “courage and willingness to appeal their ineligibilities.”
The US Embassy publication drew speculation that ultimately Washington is calling the shots when it comes to the actions of the hardline opposition bloc, a charge frequently leveled by Venezuelan government officials, and forced Machado to revert the stance she had declared publicly on multiple occasions.
In a press conference following the submission of her Supreme Court appeal, Machado expressed her displeasure with the leak. She also struggled to explain her about-face, saying that she had “surprised” her rivals by submitting her appeal and that the last-minute decision constituted a “win” for her campaign.
Machado has placed heavy emphasis on her “mandate” to be the opposition’s standard-bearer stemming from her victory in the primary process in October. However, the Venezuelan Supreme Court suspended the primary process following an official complaint from José Brito, an opposition figure from a rival camp.
The primary process has likewise come under heavy scrutiny, with a wide variety of political actors questioning the widely publicized official figure of 2 million voters. The vote organizers promised to release detailed results online but failed to do so.
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.
Machado’s decision to appeal her election ban lends legitimacy to the process agreed upon by the negotiating parties to leave the ultimate say in the hands of the country’s highest judicial authority.
The Venezuelan Supreme Court did not indicate when it is expected to rule on Machado’s disqualification. The conditions laid out by negotiators included provisions that the appellants had to meet, including a commitment to defend the country and its interests. The document also contends that the decision cannot be challenged.
Should the court dismiss the challenge, Machado would have little choice but to appeal to the Biden administration to once again impose sanctions on the country, a move analysts say the US is unlikely to do given Washington’s interest in preserving stability in oil markets.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.