Political and electoral conditions in Venezuela deteriorate despite the Barbados agreements

Six weeks after the signing of the Barbados agreements, between the Unitary Platform and the regime of Nicolás Maduro, political and electoral conditions in Venezuela have continued to progressively deteriorate.

The progress in the implementation of the partial agreement on political and electoral conditions is so precarious that the Civic Forum (space for the coordination of organizations and individuals who ensure human and political rights in the country) urged the dictatorship to comply with the agreement.

Through a public statement, the Civic Forum rejected the paralysis of the implementation of the agreement and “arrests and accusations occur without any respect for procedural and constitutional guarantees, increasing the political conflict and distancing solutions (…) To the authorities, who have the greatest responsibility and have acted in recent days in contravention of the agreements reached, we emphatically demand that they adhere to the rule of law, transparency and the responsibility of guaranteeing peace.”

No concrete progress

Although in the days after the signing of the partial agreements the regime released five detainees for political reasons, in the last week it has added two new political prisoners to the list of 300 people (six Americans included) who remain detained and who should be released for the last week of November.

On November 27, a member of the Encuentro Ciudadano party Nelson Piñero was arrested by Maduro’s political police, accused of violating the Law against Hate for criticizing the Venezuelan regime through his social networks.

On the other hand, on December 6, Roberto Abdul, director of the electoral control organization Súmate, was arrested by the political police. Abdul is accused of treason, conspiracy with a foreign power, money laundering and criminal association. These four crimes were also charged to three of the main collaborators of the opposition presidential candidate María Corina Machado.

The day Abdul was arrested, the Attorney General of the Maduro dictatorship issued arrest warrants against Claudia Macero, Pedro Urruchurtu and Henry Alviárez. At the time of writing this note, the three members of the Vente Venezuela organization have managed to evade the political police of the Venezuelan regime.

Prior to the arrest of Piñero and Abdul, the Supreme Court of Justice annulled the effects of the presidential primary held by the Unitary Platform in which María Corina Machado was the winner with 92% of the valid votes.

According to the partial agreement on political and electoral guarantees, the Venezuelan regime had to design a legal mechanism so that presidential candidates disqualified from participating in electoral processes (including María Corina Machado) could claim their authorization. This mechanism was announced on December 1. However, for constitutional lawyer Juan Manuel Raffalli there is no “mechanism as a negotiated contribution” to claim disqualifications. From his perspective “this is the ordinary way provided for in Venezuelan laws so that every citizen exercising his right to effective judicial protection can judicially request the annulment of illegal or unconstitutional acts that emanate from the public administration and that violate your rights.

Regarding the technical aspects of the election, the dictatorship has still not implemented a special operation to update the voter registry that would allow 4 million potential voters abroad and two million voters within the country to register to vote. in the 2024 presidential elections.

On the other hand, regarding the participation of international electoral observation missions in the 2024 elections, although the Venezuelan electoral authority held preliminary meetings with representatives of the Carter Center so that they can visit Venezuela with an Electoral Observation Mission, In parallel, the national Executive vetoed the possible presence of an Electoral Observation Mission of the European Union.

Return to sanctions

After the arbitrary arrest of Súmate president Roberto Abdul, 11 US senators from the Democratic Party and the Republican Party issued a joint statement in which they condemned “the Maduro regime for arresting the leader of the democratic opposition Roberto Abdul and for issuing orders of arrest against other senior members of Venezuela’s democratic opposition.”

Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Tim Kaine (D- Va.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) considers Maduro’s actions “a brazen act and a clear violation of the spirit of the Barbados Agreement and another indication that the Maduro regime is not living up to its commitment to hold free and fair elections in 2024.

Furthermore, the blatant refusal to release American political prisoners or hostages, the continued arrest warrants against other key opposition leaders, and the petulant saber rattling against Guyana show that the Maduro regime, far from taking steps toward a meaningful return of democracy, is moving towards an even more brutal dictatorship.”

Faced with this situation, the senators considered that the United States and democratic partners “must respond accordingly using all diplomatic tools, including the imposition of select sanctions.”

Threat to economic measures

For economist Luis León, “the best news that the country has received in economic matters in the last ten years has been the negotiation that allowed broad-spectrum oil, gas and gold flexibility. General licenses change the economic reality very positively and open up enormous opportunities in the future, despite the fact that their short-term impacts are moderate due to infrastructure difficulties, the ruptures of production chains and the fragility in the levels of confidence in the stability of opening decisions.”

However, he warns that this “great news is limited and threatened by radicalization in the domestic and international political landscape.” From his perspective, the US government, in granting the licenses and conditioning their renewal on compliance with the Barbados agreements, probably did not consider that “the parties will be radicalized before their time.”

“The United States knew that Maduro had not committed to the authorization and yet used it as an argument to denounce the breakdown of the Barbados agreement (…) That strategy does not seem like a good idea because it is based on the assumption that it can put pressure on the Maduro regime. with the licenses, to obtain authorization, something that he had already tried before and that obviously and publicly failed. Nobody is going to give their head for licenses. “That is an empty set.”

León considers that “threatening then with new punishments or return to the point of origin obviously paralyzes any progress by Maduro, even in the real framework of the Barbados and Doha agreements and greatly complicates the situation.