Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Sanctions relief ended after opposition leader blocked from election

Opposition coalition presidential hopeful Maria Corina Machado gives a press conference outside her campaign headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela, on Monday (Ariana Cubillos/AP)
Opposition coalition presidential hopeful Maria Corina Machado gives a press conference outside her campaign headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela, on Monday (Ariana Cubillos/AP)

The US has pulled back part of the sanctions relief it granted Venezuela last year after the South American country’s highest court blocked the presidential candidacy of an opposition leader.

The Department of the Treasury gave companies transacting with Venezuela’s state-owned mining company until February 13 to wind down operations having allowed transactions in October after President Nicolas Maduro’s government agreed to level the playing field ahead of this year’s presidential election.

On Friday, the country’s highest court upheld a ban on the candidacy of María Corina Machado, a long-time government opponent and winner of the primary held by the US-backed opposition faction.

She won the opposition’s independently run presidential primary with more than 90% of the votes despite the government announcing a 15-year ban on her running for office just days after she formally entered the race in June.

Venezuela Maria Corina Machado
A sign that reads in Spanish “We defend our democracy and freedom of expression” stands above supporters of opposition coalition presidential hopeful Maria Corina Machado (Ariana Cubillos/AP)

The long-time government foe was able to participate because the primary was organised by a commission independent of Venezuela’s electoral authorities. She insisted throughout the campaign that she never received official notification of the ban.

In December, Ms Machado filed a claim with Venezuela’s highest court, arguing the ban was null and void and seeking an injunction to protect her political rights. Instead, on Friday the court upheld the ban, which alleges fraud and tax violations and accuses her of seeking the economic sanctions the US imposed on Venezuela in the last decade.

She called the court ruling blocking her presidential candidacy “judicial criminality” and vowed to stay in the race, declaring that the decision embodies the ruling party’s fear of having to face her at the polls.

Ms Machado, surrounded by supporters and other opposition leaders, told reporters she expects government repression to increase against her and her team, because it is “the only tool they have left” to stop adversaries.

But, she said, “the best option” for Mr Maduro and his allies is “to negotiate with us a peaceful transition”.

Friday’s ruling came more than three months after Mr Maduro and the US-backed opposition, known as the Unitary Platform, reached a deal to work on basic conditions for a fair election in the second half of 2024, invite international electoral observers and create a process for aspiring presidential candidates to appeal their bans.

The agreement triggered some sanctions relief in the oil, gas and mining sectors. But the US government threatened to reverse some of the relief if Venezuela’s government failed to reverse bans preventing Ms Machado and others from holding office and did release political prisoners.

The impact of Monday’s decision affecting Compania General de Mineria de Venezuela, known as Minerven, was not immediately clear. The license authorising transactions was intended to see some of the illegal trading of gold in Venezuela move to the legal market.

Sanctions relief in the oil and gas sectors remain in place.

“They need to make the right decisions here and allow opposition members to run for office and release the political prisoners that they’re holding right now,” White House National Security spokesman John Kirby told reporters, mentioning some of the steps Mr Maduro agreed to take as part of the agreement signed in October in Barbados.

The Organisation of American States and about 30 political leaders from Spain and Latin America have also condemned the court’s decision.