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US gov’t injects confusion into Venezuela’s 2024 presidential election

The US government injected confusion into next year’s presidential election in Venezuela on Friday by incorrectly suggesting opposition leader Maria Corina Machado had filed an appeal to reverse her ban on running for office.

Machado subsequently sidestepped questions about whether she had been pressured by the Biden administration to appear before Venezuela’s highest court, but she made a veiled criticism of the US comment, saying she wished she had been able to announce her actions herself.

A tweet from the US government’s unit that oversees Venezuelan affairs praised Machado’s “courage and willingness” to appeal the ban. But as she left the country’s highest court Friday evening, she told reporters she did not file an appeal because she has not been officially notified of the ban announced against her in June.

“I am not going to resort to that procedure,” she said of the appeal process.

Instead, Machado, a longtime foe of the ruling party and winner of an opposition presidential primary, said she had established before the court a claim “that there is no disqualification” against her.

With her campaign’s attorney by her side, Machado said her legitimacy as a candidate comes from Venezuelan voters, not the government.

Asked at a later news conference whether the Biden administration had pressured her to appear before Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice, she said only that her campaign has had conversations with supporters of the opposition.

“I repeat, we are in the middle of a complex, difficult negotiation, and of course we are in contact with all those allies who have established commitments and who have given guarantees and have given important incentives for this negotiation process to advance,” she said from her campaign’s headquarters in Caracas.

A spokeswoman for the US Venezuela Affairs Unit declined to comment.

Machado won the October 22 presidential primary held by a faction of the opposition backed by the US government, getting about 94 per cent of the votes cast.

The election was organised by an independent commission with no support from the government, which allowed Machado to appear on the ballot even though Maduro’s administration banned her from running for office three days after she officially entered the race.

In the days leading up to the primary, Maduro and the US-backed opposition Unitary Platform agreed to hold a presidential election in the second half of 2024. Maduro will be seeking to add six more years to his 10-year presidency.

Machado, a free-market proponent, does not belong to the Unitary Platform, which began negotiations with Maduro’s government in 2021 in Mexico City with the mediation of Norwegian diplomats.

The October agreement brought some sanctions relief for Venezuela’s oil, gas, and mining sectors from the US government. But the Biden administration has threatened to reverse some of the relief if Venezuela’s government fails to reverse bans preventing Machado and others from holding office and does release political prisoners and wrongfully detained US citizens.

“We applaud Maria Corina Machado and other candidates for their courage and willingness to appeal their ineligibilities. Now it is up to the representatives of Nicholas Maduro to demonstrate their commitment to competitive and inclusive elections,” the US government tweeted, misspelling Maduro’s first name.

It called for the release of “Venezuelan political prisoners, including Roberto Abdul.” Abdul and Machado co-founded a pro-democracy group more than two decades ago.

The tweet reiterated that the US government intends to evaluate economic sanctions on Venezuela “based on meaningful, tangible progress” in restoring democracy.

Maduro’s allies, who along with the president argue that the opposition’s primary was fraudulent, said the tweet was a defeat for Machado and called it interference by the US government in Venezuela’s internal affairs.

The Venezuela Affairs Unit “persists in its colonialist whims that, if they were not so tragic and ridiculous, would be comical. Venezuela does not accept guidelines from anyone,” Jorge Rodriguez, Maduro’s chief negotiator and National Assembly leader, tweeted.

Source: Carribean Loop