U.S. reconsiders sanctions after Venezuela bars opposition leader

The U.S. is reevaluating its sanctions on Venezuela after a court ruling barred a prominent opposition leader from running for president in 2024.

The U.S. State Department said on Saturday that it was reviewing its sanctions policy toward Venezuela, following a court ruling that banned opposition leader Maria Corina Machado from running for president in 2024.

The decision by Venezuela’s Supreme Justice Tribunal on Friday disqualified Machado, a 56-year-old industrial engineer, from registering her candidacy for the presidential elections scheduled for the second half of 2024.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement that the ruling was a “deeply concerning decision” that violated the terms of an agreement signed in October between President Nicolas Maduro’s government and the opposition, which aimed to ensure a free and fair electoral process and led to the U.S. easing some of its oil sanctions on the oil-rich South American nation.

Miller also denounced the recent political persecution of other opposition candidates and civil society activists by the Maduro regime.

Maduro, who has been in power since 2013, accused his opponents of plotting against him and threatened to end the dialogue with them on Thursday.

“The United States is currently reviewing our Venezuela sanctions policy, based on this development and the recent political targeting of democratic opposition candidates and civil society,” Miller said.

Gerardo Blyde, the chief negotiator for the opposition, rejected Maduro’s allegations and called for the reversal of the court ruling. He said the opposition was not seeking sanctions, but a peaceful and democratic solution to the crisis in Venezuela. He spoke at a news conference in Caracas on Saturday, where he was joined by other opposition figures.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the government’s negotiating team, Hector Rodriguez, the governor of Miranda state and a member of the ruling party, said the government was committed to continuing the talks and had fulfilled all the previous agreements. He also held a press conference in Caracas on Saturday.

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