Venezuela politician wants continued US pressure

  • : Crude oil
  • 24/02/26

Venezuelan opposition politician and would-be presidential candidate Maria Corina Machado is arguing in favor of continued US economic and political pressure to force Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro to hold an election that he could lose.

Machado, who overwhelmingly won an opposition primary last year to run in a presidential election expected to be held later in 2024, is barred from taking part in the Venezuelan election. The US has made her ability to participate in the contest a key condition for extending temporary sanctions relief for Venezuela's oil sector beyond 18 April.

"We need to make the Maduro regime understand that he has only two options," either comply with the US-endorsed agreement to hold free and fair elections or walking away from that deal and facing "enormous internal pressure and international isolation," Machado said today in a virtual appearance before Washington think tank the Atlantic Council. Machado has recently made a number of virtual appearances at multiple Washington-based events, including before a House of Representatives panel.

Machado would not explicitly support the snapback of US sanctions and suggested, without providing details, that there may be other ways to economically pressure the Maduro government. "It is time for the international actors that have been supporting the Barbados agreement to make Maduro understand" that he could not break an agreement with the opposition without consequences, Machado said.

Machado also swatted away suggestions that she could step aside as the main opposition candidate in favor of a candidate cleared to run by the government. "The regime at this moment will only accept someone that they know in advance, without doubt, that they will defeat," she said.

The opposition has complained that the Maduro government has partially violated terms of the agreement reached in Barbados in October to partially lift US sanctions by continuing the ban on Machado and by an intense anti-opposition crackdown that began four weeks ago. The government is trying to walk away from the agreement because it realized that "it has totally lost its social base," according to Machado.

But Machado insisted that it is still possible to compel Maduro to hold an open election which he could lose and step down. The key is to make Maduro and his close advisers "understand that the situation is unsustainable if he goes through this path of absolute repression and discharging all the agreements signed so far, and at the same time that if he doesn't, then there will be a path with lower costs."

Other observers do not see a fair election as a possibility under Maduro.

"It is my personal opinion that Maduro will never comply with any agreement that would lead to his involuntary departure from power," former US ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield said during a recent panel discussion hosted by Washington, DC-based think-tank the Wilson Center. Maduro will postpone any planned election if he is unable to control the outcome, Brownfield said.

The US administration's decision to temporary lift Venezuela sanctions "was not built on some kind of enduring faith in the implementation of the agreement — it was built on verification," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier this month.

When the 18 April deadline expires, "we will see, at that point, where we are with respect to the Maduro regime following through on its commitments, and then we'll make our determinations about how we proceed from there," Sullivan said.

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