Chavismo and the opposition agree to hold the presidential elections in the second half of 2024

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The president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodríguez, this Tuesday upon his arrival in Barbados.AN Press (EFE/AN Press)

Chavismo and the opposition signed partial agreements this Tuesday in Barbados to pave the way for the presidential elections in Venezuela, almost a year after the signing of the last commitments that never came to fruition. The delegations of the Government of Nicolás Maduro and the Unitary Platform signed a five-page document in which one of the clearest commitments has been to propose presidential elections for the second half of 2024, taking into account the constitutional schedule, according to which they would be held in December. This point distances the intentions of some sectors of Chavismo from advancing them. The document is rather a general framework of tasks, largely related to the obligations of the National Electoral Council, and it will be necessary to see if they are sustained along the way.

On national television in Venezuela broadcast images of the delegations signing this new agreement, just before the expected match of the Vinotinto team against Chile. The facilitators have described the progress as significant, but crucial aspects remain up in the air regarding the disqualification of opposition candidates, which the Maduro Government has used to block political dissidence in the country and which has become the most controversial aspect of this new cycle of negotiations.

The penultimate point of the agreement states that “authorization for all presidential candidates and political parties” will be promoted so that they can participate in the presidential election, but warns that this will be “as long as they comply with the requirements established by law,” a tagline. which maintains the possibility that these judicial vetoes will be used to prevent the registration of candidates like María Corina Machado, who received a sanction of this type a few months ago, when she was just running for the primaries. In statements to the official media that traveled to Barbados, the head of the Chavista delegation, Jorge Rodríguez, cleared up any doubts: “If you received an administrative disqualification, you will not be able to be a candidate.” Machado is virtually the winner of the primaries that will be held this Sunday, so this remains a key issue to be resolved.

The opposition delegation has highlighted the achievements as another step along the way. “This delegation has taken its first step to develop an electoral process with concrete guarantees to bring about political change,” said leader Gerardo Blyde. “Guarantees are being generated to respect the candidate selection processes; that is, the primaries. There is a route for the disqualified and parties to quickly recover their rights, electoral observation has been indicated, an electoral schedule has been defined to carry them out during the second semester, the updating and purification of the electoral registry has been requested, including Venezuelans abroad, as well as giving access to all the media to all candidates.” Other commitments that the parties have is to request that the authorities "adopt measures to guarantee security, freedom of movement and assembly for all candidates throughout the national territory."

Also left on paper “the request for invitation” to technical electoral observation missions such as those of the European Union, the UN Panel of Electoral Experts, the African Union, the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations and the Carter Center, the update of permanent electoral registration and the opening of voter registration abroad, this being an important demand that the opposition sectors have been making.

In Venezuela there are more than three million people of voting age who have not registered and the only possibility to do so is in the regional offices of the CNE, located in the capitals of each State, in some cases several hours away from many. population centers. The last point agreed on rights and political guarantees was to respect the results of next year's presidential elections.

The lifting of sanctions, which for a time was the opposition's lever of pressure, has been relegated to the last paragraph of the agreement. “The parties will continue the process of dialogue and negotiation in relation to other measures aimed at strengthening an inclusive democracy and a culture of tolerance and political coexistence, as well as respect for human rights; understanding the need for the sanctions against the Venezuelan State to be lifted and claiming independence, freedom, sovereignty, immunity, territorial integrity and national self-determination as inalienable rights of the Nation,” the document says.

A separate negotiation is taking place now that Maduro has regained dialogue with the United States, which has finally brought the parties back to the table with a promise to relax the restrictions on doing business with Venezuelan oil, in a context in which that the energy market has been in check since Russia's war in Ukraine began and that it has become complicated again with the resumption of the armed conflict in the Gaza Strip.

In addition, this October 17, an agreement was signed on “the defense of the vital interests of the nation”, which brings together the agenda of Chavismo: the defense of Essequibo in the territorial dispute that Venezuela has with Guyana, the rejection of the granting of concessions oil companies in that space, the defense of Citgo and assets abroad. The details were revealed by Rodríguez, who suspiciously highlighted the omission of the facilitators to read him.

After two years of negotiations with the support of Norway, the Netherlands and Russia, there have been few concrete actions. The release of the more than 200 political prisoners, the reforms to the justice system to guarantee reparation for victims and the protection measures for Venezuelans who are still going through a serious humanitarian crisis are issues that were put on the table that August 17, 2021 when they met for the first time in Mexico City, but they have not re-entered the discussion.

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