U.S. reviewing Venezuelan sanctions policy in wake of court decision

President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, gestures as he speaks after the National Electoral Council published the results of the consultative referendum on Venezuelan sovereignty over the Essequibo, in Caracas, on December 3, 2023. Venezuelan electoral authorities on December 3 claimed that 95 percent of voters in a nonbinding referendum approved of the nation’s territorial claim on a huge chunk of neighboring oil-rich Guyana.
It is “an evident and overwhelming victory for the ‘Yes’ in this consultative referendum,” said the president of the National Electoral Council, Elvis Amoroso. (Photo by Pedro Rances Mattey / AFP) (Photo by PEDRO RANCES MATTEY/AFP via Getty Images)

Pedro Rances Mattey | Afp | Getty Images

The U.S. is reviewing its sanctions policy against Venezuela after a court in that country upheld a ban preventing presidential candidate Maria Corina Machado from holding office, the U.S. State Department said on Saturday.

The ruling by Venezuela’s Supreme Justice Tribunal on Friday means Machado, a 56-year-old industrial engineer, cannot register her candidacy for presidential elections scheduled for the second half of 2024.

“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,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

The U.S. eased economically debilitating oil sanctions on the crude-exporting country in October after President Nicolas Maduro’s government signed a deal with the opposition under which Caracas made commitments to hold a free and fair 2024 presidential election.

Miller said the court ruling was a “deeply concerning decision” that ran contrary to the commitments made by Maduro to allow all parties to select candidates.

Maduro on Thursday said the deal with his opponents was in danger of collapse, citing what he has described as “conspiracies” against him.

Gerardo Blyde, head of the opposition negotiating team, denied members had been linked to acts of violence and demanded the court ruling be reversed.

“We are not asking for sanctions, that is not our job. We are looking for the process to move forward,” he told a news conference in Caracas on Saturday.

At a separate press conference in Caracas, a representative for the government’s negotiating team insisted the ruling party would remain in the talks.

“We will never hesitate to remain in the talks, to remain in the discussion,” said Hector Rodriguez, the ruling party governor for Venezuela’s Miranda state. He said the government had complied with all prior agreements.

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