Caracas, February 1, 2024 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has begun taking steps to set in motion this year’s presidential elections in rejection of Washington’s renewed sanctions threats and interference efforts.
On Wednesday, President Nicolás Maduro stated that “a new world has already been born” which no longer accepts “imperial tutelage” from the United States, and asserted that many allied nations “want to come and invest in Venezuela.”
“We do not depend on the Yankees to invest, prosper and grow,” reaffirmed Maduro during his speech at the 2024 opening judicial ceremony held in the Supreme Court (TSJ) headquarters in Caracas.
Maduro likewise expressed his support to bring forward this year’s presidential elections and warned against the US-backed opposition’s plans to sabotage the vote. He recalled previous violent attempts to stop electoral processes as well as numerous failed coups, including the self-proclamation of Juan Guaidó as “interim president” in 2019. Washington threw its support behind Guaidó with a blockade against state oil company PDVSA and the seizure of US-based oil subsidiary CITGO.
“Once again they threaten the people of Venezuela to impede, sabotage and attack the next electoral process of 2024, which is an obligation and a constitutional mandate”, said the president and cautioned against another Guaidó experiment. “Beware of a new embarrassment.”
Maduro’s strong rebuke comes after the US Treasury Department revoked a sanctions waiver for Venezuela’s gold sector. On Monday, US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller threatened that the limited license for Venezuela’s energy sector approved in October of last year would not be renewed come April unless far-right politician María Corina Machado was allowed to run for president. He reiterated the threat two days later.
On January 27, the Venezuelan Supreme Court rejected Machado’s challenge to her disqualification from holding public office due to her involvement in Washington’s numerous regime change efforts in Venezuela, including support for sanctions. However, other opposition figures had their bans lifted.
Far-right Machado, who has previously called for a foreign invasion of Venezuela, has vowed to continue “all the way to the end” and rejected endorsing another anti-government candidate.
Washington claims that the court’s ruling contradicts the Barbados Accords, which were signed between the Maduro administration and the hardline opposition. However, Caracas has refuted this interpretation, stating that the agreement does not require the government to lift Machado’s ban. 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.
In response to Washington’s ultimatum, on Tuesday Venezuela’s National Assembly (AN) called for a national dialogue process beginning February 5 to develop an electoral route. Some Venezuelan analysts have predicted that the presidential vote would be held in May but authorities have not announced any date.
“Save yourselves the time-lapse, Yankees. Our response must be to summon everyone, the presidential pre-candidates, the political parties, the electoral movements, business sector, peasants, cultural workers […] to elaborate the electoral calendar,” said AN President Jorge Rodríguez.
For his part, Venezuelan Oil Minister Pedro Tellechea stated that “Venezuela is prepared for any circumstance,” including the reimposition of sanctions on the oil and gas industry. He additionally mentioned that any measures taken by the United States “will also have consequences for them.”
Following the sanctions relief measures last year, Caracas has re-entered international oil markets and seen an increase in exports. In previous years, the country was forced to sell crude shipments at a reduced price through intermediaries. However, it had initiated efforts with allied nations to establish non-US dollar payments. US oil giant Chevron, as well as European firms Eni, Repsol and Maurel & Prom, have received approval from the US Treasury to increase dealings in Venezuela’s energy sector.
Economist Francisco Rodríguez estimated that the removal of the oil and gas sanctions waiver would represent a hit of at least US $1.6 billion for the Venezuelan economy in 2024.
Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez also replied forcefully to Washington’s threats, warning that further aggression against the Caribbean nation will lead to the suspension of any ongoing cooperation mechanisms, including deportation flights that began in October. Migration policies played a significant role in US candidates’ presidential prospects.
“If they [the US government] take the false step of intensifying the economic aggression against Venezuela, at the request of their local lackeys, as of February 13 the repatriation flights of Venezuelan migrants would be immediately revoked,” said Rodríguez.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.