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The Supreme Court of Venezuela confirms Maria Corina Machado's ineligibility to run in the presidential elections

The Supreme Court of Venezuela confirms Maria Corina Machado's ineligibility to run in the presidential elections

Maria Corina Machado will not be able to attend Venezuela's presidential elections this year due to a legal scam by Chavismo. The Supreme Court of Justice declared inadmissible the lawsuit filed by Machado, the absolute leader of the opposition, in which she claimed her de facto ineligibility. Thus, Venezuelan justice has put an end to the suspense witnessed in recent weeks. Chavismo gets rid of Maduro's main rival, who is ahead of him in almost all opinion polls.

The ruling was issued on Friday afternoon in a series of decisions in which other disqualified politicians such as Leosenes García and Richard Mardo were allowed to participate. The Political-Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice also issued a final ruling in the case of Henrique Capriles Radonski, who ratified his veto to run for public office for 15 years.

In the Barbados Agreements signed last October, it was agreed to create a mechanism to remove the political obstacles that Chavismo has used in recent years to prevent competition in electoral elections, when it lost much popular support. The United States had pushed for the measure to be introduced and the Supreme Court opened a fifteen-day period in December for interested parties to review their cases, especially Machado's.

In his case, the Supreme Court issued in the same decision the admissibility of the appeal, the negative judgment on appeal and the precautionary measure, which were the legal path that had been agreed upon in the negotiations to provide greater democratic guarantees for the presidential elections to take place. The year 2024 could help bring Venezuela out of its long political and institutional crisis.

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Since 2002, Chavismo has disqualified more than 1,400 citizens from holding public office, according to the NGO Acceso a la Justicia. Many of them are public servants. With tight control imposed on all the country's institutions, Chavismo used this legal trick to neutralize its opponents. The political persecution against Machado began in 2014. At that time, Machado embodied the most extreme wing of the Venezuelan opposition. His direct confrontations against Hugo Chavez form part of the country's history. That year, Machado was expelled from the National Assembly on charges of “treason” because he agreed to join a Panamanian delegation to speak before the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in Washington. In 2015, the Comptroller General of the Republic – the scrutiny body on citizen power – disqualified her from holding public office for a year, just five months before parliamentary elections, which Machado had planned to attend. This was an administrative penalty for omitting food stamp income on the apportioned assets return.

The exclusion that now hampers him once again was known only a few months ago. Machado claimed he never received formal notification and was not part of the trial for that reason. Under the decision, Machado has been excluded since September 16, 2021 due to her alleged participation in acts of corruption that occurred during the interim government of Juan Guaido, although she was never part of this parallel structure linked to the parliament chosen in 2015, with the legitimacy of Maduro being challenged. He was then re-elected in a process questioned by the international community. Machado, at that time, even became one of a group of critics of the strategy of the popular Voluntad leader who is today in exile in the United States. “He was a participant in the corruption conspiracy masterminded by the usurper Juan Antonio Guaido, which led to the criminal blockade of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, as well as the blatant seizure of the companies and wealth of the Venezuelan people abroad, with the ‘collusion of corrupt governments,’” the ruling said.

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Chavismo was at a crossroads with the decision to allow Machado to participate, the most popular opposition candidate ever in recent years, as a large section of the population became disillusioned with political leaders. With his rating at 70 points higher than Maduro's meager popularity, Chavismo has now decided to go ahead and block his path once and for all.

“The regime decided to terminate the Barbados Agreement. What never ends is our struggle to overcome democracy through free and fair elections. Maduro and his criminal regime have chosen the worst path for them: rigged elections. This won't happen. No one doubts it, that is until the end,” the leader responded in a message on her social networks.

The legal decision was preceded by several weeks of intimidation and persecution against Machado's political team, which led to the imprisonment of several of his collaborators, linked to alleged plots to assassinate Maduro, which the Venezuelan government used to argue that the opposition was violating the Barbados Conventions.

It remains to be seen how the opposition will regroup in this new scenario. Machado insisted that “nothing will derail them from the electoral process.” But the options available to replace the leader, within the Unionist Platform coalition, were not yet on the table, at least publicly. Among other opposition sectors, which have agreed to spaces for coexistence with Chavismo, there are options that could still enter the field. The most prominent of them is Manuel Rosales, governor of Zulia state, who resigned from participating in the primaries, but did not give up his presidential aspirations. In 2006, Venezuelans went to the polls and had to choose between Hugo Chavez and Rosales, as a final option.

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Maduro's struggle with the United States, beyond the Norway-sponsored talks, should now lead to an election date being set with uncertain guarantees, as Washington temporarily eased oil sanctions demanded by Chavismo and led to the exchange of Americans imprisoned in Venezuela for businessman Alex Saab, Who was arrested on charges of money laundering and accused of being one of the financial workers in the president's entourage.

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