WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
2 Feb 2024 | WOLA Statement

Venezuela: Ban of Opposition Candidates Violates International Human Rights Standards and Spirit of Barbados Agreement

On January 26, Venezuela’s Supreme Court of Justice announced its decision to uphold bans on opposition presidential candidate María Corina Machado and two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, preventing them from holding any public office for 15 years. Neither Machado nor Capriles were provided the right to defend themselves against accusations made, thereby violating their rights to due process and defense by international human rights standards. As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has underscored, sanctions to disqualify candidates should only be imposed through a conviction by a judge within the framework of a criminal process.

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is deeply concerned by this decision. While the Court’s confirmation of the bans on María Corina Machado and Henrique Capriles running for office does not come as a surprise, these bans violate the right to political participation. The bans are also contrary to the spirit of the Barbados Agreement signed in October 2023 between the Maduro government and Venezuela’s Unitary Platform, a group of opposition parties, and  therefore present a significant setback to an electoral pathway out of Venezuela’s crisis, as well as the negotiation process more broadly. 

Despite these setbacks, WOLA encourages the parties to maintain ongoing dialogue and participation in these negotiations, as they still offer the best path to reverse authoritarianism in Venezuela and to reinstitutionalize its democracy.

In the Partial Agreement on the Promotion of Political Rights and Electoral Guarantees for All, also known as the Barbados Agreement, the Maduro government and Venezuela’s Unitary Platform, agreed to “recognize and respect the right of each political actor to select its candidate for the presidential elections in a free manner,” as well as the authorization of candidates that meet established requirements to participate in presidential elections. María Corina Machado garnered over 90% of the vote in opposition primary elections held in October 2023.

We welcome the commitment of the opposition Unitary Platform to remain at the negotiation table and urge the Venezuelan government to comply with other aspects of the Barbados Agreement such as scheduling a reasonable date for presidential elections in 2024, updating the voter registry nationally and internationally, and allowing for the international observation of elections. 

We urge other involved parties, such as the United States, to continue to defend the Barbados Agreement in its multiple articles and encourage the U.S. to call on the international community to press the Maduro government to comply with its terms. As the Biden Administration evaluates the U.S. sanctions policy in response to the banning of opposition candidates, we urge U.S. officials to take the humanitarian impacts of sanctions into account and to continue to push for a peaceful transition that is rooted in democratic values.