WThe Venezuelan government and the opposition have sat at the negotiating table from time to time in recent years, then the talks stopped after a few rounds. But now the two sides have surprisingly made an agreement. At a meeting held on Tuesday in Barbados, government and opposition representatives agreed on electoral guarantees for holding presidential elections next year. The elections are scheduled to be held in the second half of 2024 and will be monitored by international observers, including the European Union and the United Nations. Tuesday’s meeting was the first after eleven months of ice time. The talks are scheduled to continue at a date yet to be determined.
Various government sources in both countries told Reuters that in exchange for electoral guarantees, Washington is said to be willing to further ease oil sanctions imposed on Venezuela. Oil revenues are an essential component of Venezuela’s economy. There have been signs in this direction from Joe Biden’s government for a long time. But the sources said the sanctions relief could be reversed if Caracas violates the agreement.
The agreement in Barbados came after negotiations between representatives of the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and envoys from Washington. They have met several times in Qatar since last year to find a way out of Venezuela’s political and economic crisis, which has already caused millions of people to flee — many of them to the United States. The two sides are said to have agreed to allow at least one more foreign oil company to produce Venezuelan crude oil to pay off debts if Maduro resumes negotiations with the opposition. Since the Russian attack on Ukraine, the United States has once again become more interested in Venezuelan crude oil, of which it was the most important buyer until sanctions were imposed.
Prominent opposition politicians are not allowed to run
However, not all obstacles to holding elections next year have been removed. The Venezuelan government and the opposition agreed that each side could choose its candidates according to its own rules. However, the pro-government Comptroller General banned several prominent opposition politicians from holding public office. The head of the opposition negotiating delegation, Gerardo Blade, called for the affected politicians to be restored to their “rights.” But the government refused. Jorge Rodriguez, head of the government delegation, said that if there is an administrative exclusion, they are not allowed to run.
The opposition faces a dilemma a few days before the internal primary elections next Sunday, in which the opposition parties want to agree on a single joint candidate for the first time. According to the polls, the favorite candidate is Maria Corina Machado, who is one of these “excluded people.” While others, such as two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, have withdrawn their internal candidacy, Machado, 56, is sticking with it. She added that there is no backup plan if she wins the primary, although she will be prohibited from registering her candidacy with the Board of Elections. The issue could become another source of contention in the often divided and contentious opposition. The opposition has not yet clarified what will happen if Machado wins the primaries, but after that he will not be able to run for president.
Maduro, who has been in power since 2013, is likely to run for re-election as government. His re-election in 2018, which was condemned by the opposition and many countries in America and Europe as an illegal and sham election due to the effective exclusion of the opposition, led to the imposition of sanctions by the United States. They are directed primarily against the Venezuelan oil sector and the state oil company PDVSA, which has been subject to an export ban, as well as against senior government officials and the military.
The opposition formed a “parallel government” headed by the then speaker of parliament, Juan Guaido, who was initially recognized as interim president by several countries. However, Guaido had no actual power in Venezuela. His figure was fading quickly. The international community has now returned to the Maduro government, as negotiations with the US government show. The opposition returned to negotiations. Guaido has been living in the United States with his family since April. He will not run in the primary elections scheduled for Sunday.
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