On Friday, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) announced the decisions on the bans from running for office appealed by opposition politicians through the mechanism agreed in the Barbados Agreement. Although precautionary protection measures were granted –and acts were even dismissed– to a group of opposition politicians (Richard Mardo, Pablo Pérez, Leocenis García, Daniel Ceballos and Rosa de Scarano) whose bans were lifted, the bans on former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles and the current opposition candidate María Corina Machado were ratified. The ban of former mayor Enzo Scarano was also ratified. “The regime decided to end the Barbados agreements,” said Machado, “what is not over is our fight to conquer democracy through free and fair elections.”
“Despite the serious threats from far-right sectors against the peace of the Republic, the mechanism established within the framework of the Barbados Agreements has been complied with,” said the head of the Chavista negotiation delegation Jorge Rodríguez, “Elections in 2024, rain or shine.” It is likely that Chavismo will insist that the Agreement still stands, fulfilling points such as international observation missions or an electoral schedule.
The ratification of the disqualifications follows a new wave of repression against the opposition and organized civil society. Following Nicolás Maduro’s announcement of the creation of Furia Bolivariana, a “civil-military-police plan” to “confront conspiracies,” the headquarters of at least seven political parties and several civil associations were vandalized on the morning of January 23. These include the main headquarters of Vente and around six local headquarters, houses of regional opposition activists, the headquarters of the NGO FundaREDES, at least three colleges of engineers and regional headquarters of Primero Justicia, Voluntad Popular, Encuentro Ciudadano, Copei, Acción Democrática and Un Nuevo Tiempo.
Three regional coordinators and an activist from Vente, María Corina Machado’s party, were also detained in Vargas, Trujillo and Yaracuy. The previous week, a Vente member and union leader was also arrested in Barinas.
Meanwhile, ambassadors and diplomatic representatives of EU met with representatives of the government and the opposition to review the implementation of the Barbados agreement…
The intimidation campaign took place a day after the Armed Force (FANB) denounced an alleged coup plot called “White Bracelet” and issued arrest warrants against a group that includes human rights activist Tamara Suju and journalist Sebastiana Barraez. The government also detained a former officer in Táchira, who “confessed” on camera, and allegedly 31 other people involved in five conspiracies. Subsequently, the FANB announced the expulsion of 33 members and Attorney General Tarek W. Saab accused the arrested Vente members of being part of a “terrorist” operation.
Despite the threats and a Chavista counter-demonstration in the same area, María Corina Machado continued with her rally in Altamira in Caracas, which later had to move to La Castellana, to commemorate January 23 –Democracy Day in Venezuela– and present the Grand National Alliance (GANA) that will bring together associations, organizations and parties ahead of this year’s elections.
Prosecutor Renny Amundaraín and former public defender Adys Salcedo, both accused by human rights groups of previously being part of the state’s repressive apparatus, were also arrested for alleged links to “organized crime.”
Faced with the accusations of assassination, one of more than sixty that Chavismo has made in 25 years, Rodríguez said that he will “give Gerardo Blyde all the evidence of these conspiracies and I am going to”sit and wait to see what the position of the eight people who signed the [Barbados] agreement will be.” He also assured that “there is no way for this woman [Machado] to be a candidate for anything in any election (…) with sanctions or without sanctions, with opposition or without opposition” and assured that Maduro will be the chavista candidate in 2024. Maduro, for his part, said that “today the Barbados agreements are mortally wounded. I declare them in intensive care. They stabbed them. They kicked them (…) I hope we can save the Barbados agreements and push, through dialogue, great agreements of national consensus.”
Meanwhile, ambassadors and diplomatic representatives of the European Union (EU) met with representatives of the government and the opposition to review the implementation of the Barbados agreement. The meetings included Vice President Delcy Rodríguez and her brother Jorge. The European representatives expressed “their support for the dialogue process towards fair, transparent and competitive elections for 2024. Likewise, they reiterated their firm support for the implementation of the Barbados Agreements, and their willingness to exchange with the authorities about the organization of a European electoral observation mission,” according to an EU press conference. The United States, for its part, said that “actions that are contrary to the spirit and letter of the Barbados Agreement will have consequences. We urge Maduro and his representatives to abide by what is established in the agreement.”
One day after the US statement and the meetings with the Europeans, the TSJ moved forward with the ratification of the disqualifications of Capriles and Machado.
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