01 Dec 2023, 10:09

Venezuela, opposition agree on review of candidate bans

 CARACAS, Dec 1, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Venezuela's government agreed on Thursday to allow opposition candidates to challenge the election bans imposed on them, potentially opening a pathway for barred figures to run in next year's presidential race.
  The agreement to the procedure, which will be overseen by the country's Supreme Court, could be key for Maria Corina Machado, winner of the opposition's recent primary.
  She hopes to face off against President Nicolas Maduro in the 2024 presidential elections, but faces a 15-year ban on holding office.
  A date has not yet been fixed for next year's election.
  The announcement comes on the final day before a deadline imposed by the United States for Venezuela to define a mechanism to help lift the disqualifications of opposition figures or face a retightening of sanctions.
  The United States had agreed to ease oil and gas sanctions against Maduro's government after it struck a deal with the opposition to hold an election the international community hopes will restore democracy in the crisis-wracked country.
  However, Caracas rejected the results of the opposition primary in October, alleging the vote was tainted by fraud.
  Norway, which acts as mediator between Venezuela's government and the opposition, confirmed it received a communique by the two sides outlining an agreement "on a procedure for candidates who wish to stand for election," the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on X, formerly Twitter.
  According to the deal, Machado and other disqualified candidates have until December 15 to file an appeal with the Supreme Court to lift the measures preventing them from holding office.
  The parties agreed that prospective candidates must "respect the Constitution," abide by the Supreme Court's framework and "honor and defend the homeland."
  The text also called for candidates to "reject any form of violence" and actions against Venezuelan sovereignty.
  It did not say when the court will rule on lifting the candidates' disqualifications.
  Venezuela's opposition, backed by several countries including the United States, did not recognize Maduro's 2018 reelection in a vote widely dismissed as fraudulent, and Washington ramped up sanctions.
  The South American country, which has the world's largest proven oil reserves, is grappling with a crippling political and economic crisis, marked by hyperinflation and a shortage of basic goods, which has pushed millions to flee the country.