US reimposes sanctions as Venezuela bans presidential candidate

Venezuela’s mining sector faces restrictions from the United States, aiming to reimpose sanctions after Venezuela’s highest court disqualified an opposition presidential candidate.

The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced that US businesses must cease transactions with Minerven, Venezuela’s state-owned mining corporation, by February 13.

The US threatened to reverse sanction relief offered last year in return for Caracas’s commitment to a deal about the 2024 elections, which involved a process for disqualified candidates to challenge their disqualification.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court, loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, confirmed the 15-year ban on opposition leader Maria Corina Machado and upheld Henrique Capriles’ ineligibility, a potential substitute for Machado.

Machado condemned the court’s decision barring her presidential candidacy as “judicial criminality,” vowing to stay in the race, claiming the ruling party fears facing her in elections.

Sanctions Mitigation

The agreement between Maduro’s government and the Venezuelan opposition in Barbados last year, aimed at ensuring fair and free elections in 2024 with international observers, led the US to ease sanctions. This allowed Chevron, a US-based company, to resume limited oil extraction activities and facilitated a prisoner swap.

On Monday, White House spokesperson John Kirby stated that Maduro’s officials haven’t fulfilled their Barbados commitments, prompting the US to consider various options, including sanctions.

Maduro’s lead negotiator, Jorge Rodriguez, warned of a firm, reciprocal response to any US “aggressive actions.”

In October, Machado, 56, won the opposition’s self-organized presidential primary with over 90% of the vote. This success came despite a government-imposed 15-year ban on her candidacy days after her June nomination.

Organized independently from Venezuela’s electoral authorities, the primary allowed Machado, a long-standing government opponent, to participate. She claimed she was never formally notified of the ban.

In December, Machado challenged the ban in court to protect her political rights. The court upheld the ban, citing tax evasion and fraud, and accused her of seeking economic sanctions from the US against Venezuela a decade ago.

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