Venezuelan Government and Opposition Meet to Discuss Election Timetable

Venezuela’s political parties are set to sign an agreement on final dates for the 2024 elections.
National Assembly President Jorge Rodríguez addresses the Venezuelan parliament during an ordinary session on Tuesday. (Asamblea Nacional)

Mexico City, Mexico, February 21, 2024 ( – Venezuelan National Assembly President Jorge Rodríguez announced Monday that an election calendar would soon be revealed following meetings with 42 political parties and organizations over recent weeks. 

Rodríguez, who also heads the government delegation in talks with the US-backed Unitary Platform, specified that the talks counted on the representation from various opposition organizations, including the hardline Unitary Platform and other anti-government parties who have opted to participate in recent electoral contests.

In response, chief opposition negotiator Gerardo Blyde said the latest discussions went beyond negotiations over the election calendar and included alleged violations of the Barbados Agreement signed between the two parties last October. 

Blyde’s camp maintains that the political disqualification of far-right opposition leader María Corina Machado constitutes a violation of this agreement, which lays out conditions for upcoming presidential elections.

“Neither this delegation, nor the Unitary Platform, nor the candidate María Corina Machado, have distanced themselves from the electoral route and we demand compliance with the Barbados Agreement,” said Blyde in a Monday press conference.

According to Caracas, the document stipulates that candidates chosen by the parties are eligible to participate in elections as long as they adhere to the Venezuelan Constitution and laws. Machado was officially disqualified from running in the election after the Venezuelan Supreme Court (TSJ) rejected her challenge to her 15-year disqualification from holding public office. This appeal mechanism was agreed to by both sides as an extension of the October 2023 Barbados Agreement.

Venezuela’s maximum judicial authority upheld Machado’s ban due to her alleged participation in corruption schemes, the hardline opposition’s actions endangering Venezuelan foreign assets, and Machado’s support for US-led sanctions.

Blyde, who charged that the government has been increasing political repression, added that the Unitary Platform delivered a report to Norwegian mediators concerning these alleged violations of the accords. 

Rodríguez took umbrage with Blyde’s comments, categorizing the opposition Unitary Platform as “racist and extremist,” and challenged its characterization of the Barbados Agreement.

“Dialogue is not impunity,” said Rodríguez to reporters on Monday. 

The National Assembly head also flatly rejected Blyde’s request that meetings be held outside Venezuela and revealed that the two sides had met 14 times inside the country in the past 8 months.

Venezuela’s political parties are set to meet once again on Monday to sign the agreement that will set the final dates for the 2024 elections.

According to Venezuelan law, the legislative branch proposes the calendar for approval by the electoral branch, the National Electoral Council (CNE). The Venezuelan constitution mandates presidential elections this year.

Rodríguez’ comments in the National Assembly on Tuesday indicated that this agreement will form the basis for political activity in the country moving forward.

“How is this document different from the document we signed in Barbados? In that it is more complete, more extensive, it has more concrete elements related to the election,” he told the plenum.

The Unitary Platform’s continued engagement with the government suggests that the hardline opposition is still engaged with the electoral process despite Machado’s disqualification. The government has insisted that the decision by the TSJ be respected.  

The far-right opposition leader insists she is the only person who should represent the opposition on the ballot and has rejected endorsing another anti-government candidate, leading to concerns that she and her supporters could once again endorse abstention and potentially resort to violent strategies for regime change.

For their part, US officials have struck an aggressive position with regard to the upcoming presidential race. Following the Supreme Court ruling that ratified Machado’s ban, the US Treasury Department revoked a license authorizing dealings with Venezuela’s mining sector. The Biden administration has likewise threatened to reimpose sanctions on the oil and gas industry once an existing license expires in April.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Maputo, Mozambique.