December 4, 2023

Venezuela’s government and opposition have agreed to hold elections

WThe Venezuelan government and opposition have sat at the negotiating table in recent years, suspending or breaking off talks after a few rounds. But now the two sides have surprisingly come up with a deal. At a meeting in Barbados on Tuesday, government and opposition representatives agreed on electoral guarantees for next year’s presidential election. Elections are due to take place in the second half of 2024 and will be monitored by international observers, including the European Union and the United Nations. Meeting on Tuesday after eleven months of snow. Negotiations are scheduled to continue at a date yet to be determined.

Various government sources in both countries told Reuters that Washington was willing to ease further oil embargoes against Venezuela in exchange for electoral guarantees. Oil revenue is central to Venezuela’s economy. There have long been signals in this direction from Joe Biden’s administration. However, the easing of sanctions could be reversed if Caracas violates the deal, the sources said.

The agreement in Barbados followed talks between representatives of President Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuelan government and diplomats from Washington. They have met several times in Qatar since last year to seek relief from the political and economic crisis in Venezuela, which has already caused millions of people to flee — many to the United States. If Maduro renegotiates with the opposition, both sides have reportedly agreed to allow at least one foreign oil company to produce Venezuelan crude to pay off the debt. After Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the U.S. has once again become more interested in Venezuelan crude, of which it was the most important buyer until the sanctions.

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Main opposition politicians are not allowed to contest

However, not all hurdles have been cleared for next year’s elections. Venezuela’s government and opposition have agreed that each side can choose its own candidates according to its own rules. However, the pro-government Comptroller General has barred several prominent opposition politicians from holding public office. Gerardo Blyde, head of the opposition’s negotiating team, called for the affected politicians to be given back “their rights”. But the government refused. If there is an administrative exemption, they will not be allowed to compete, said Jorge Rodriguez, head of the government delegation.

The opposition faces a dilemma ahead of next Sunday’s internal primaries, in which the opposition wants to accept a common candidate for the first time. According to surveys, one of these “excluded persons,” Maria Corina Machado, is the clear favorite. While others, such as two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, have withdrawn their internal candidacy, Machado, 56, is sticking with it. He said there was no backup plan if he won the primary, though he would be barred from filing his candidacy with the Elections Council. The issue could become a further source of rift in the highly fragmented and often contentious opposition. The opposition has yet to explain what will happen if Machado wins the primaries but fails to run for president.