Venezuela’s top court on Monday nullified results of an opposition presidential primary that took place last month — just weeks after the U.S. lifted sanctions on some of the country’s industries in exchange for a free election guarantee.
‘Following the request of preventative protection and in consequence, all the effects of the distinct phases of the electoral process conducted by the National Primary Commission are suspended,’ Venezuela’s Supreme Justice Tribunal said on its website.
‘[Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro hoodwinked [U.S. President] Biden by making promises to lift sanctions, but these promises are likely to prove ineffective, especially concerning primary elections in Venezuela after the illegitimate Supreme Court’s decision voiding the result,’ Isaias Medina III, a former Venezuelan diplomat at the U.N. Security Council who resigned in 2017 due to Maduro’s human rights violations and crimes against humanity, told Fox News Digital.
‘Anticipating elections without a strong foundation of the rule of law is akin to expecting an apple tree to bear figs; a fundamental principle must be in place for the desired outcome to manifest,’ he said.
Medina added, ‘Until Maduro’s network of influence is removed from power and Venezuela is liberated from his grasp, it’s unrealistic to expect any significant change from the current status quo. Venezuela remains a haven for terrorists. Loosening sanctions is not a viable alternative, while Maduro continues to strangle the civilian population through human rights violations, grand corruption, and money laundering, effectively imposing a hyperinflation tax.’
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department told Fox News Digital that officials urge Maduro’s government to ‘uphold the commitments they made at the signing of the political roadmap agreements in Barbados’ and that the U.S. would ‘take action if Maduro and his representatives’ fail to uphold their side of the deal following the court’s ruling on Monday.
‘The democratic opposition primary on Oct. 22 was an important milestone in Venezuela’s progress toward a competitive presidential campaign in 2024,’ the spokesperson said, adding, ‘The United States stands with the Venezuelan people and actors who want a democratic future.’
Maduro on Oct. 18 agreed to the elections as part of a deal with the U.S. to roll back sanctions against the country’s gas and oil industry as well as bond trading. The U.S. Treasury issued a six-month general license to authorize transactions and dealings on those conditions as well as the release of political prisoners.
But Maduro last week announced a probe into the results, which elected Maria Corina Machado as the opposition candidate despite a ban implemented earlier this year that would prevent her holding office for 15 years. The country’s attorney general accused the opposition of electoral violations, financial crimes and conspiracy.
Officials have demanded the opposition hand over all documents related to the primary election, which the opposition claims would include voter records and sensitive information about their membership.
The opposition party has accused Venezuela’s Supreme Justice Tribunal of merely existing as an arm of the government. The party has rejected the government’s accusations and insisted the elections were transparent and fair.
The government has decried alleged fraud since the day of the vote, which was organized without state help and which attracted more than 2.3 million voters.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken after the deal said that Venezuela had to ‘define a specific timeline and process for the expedited reinstatement of all candidates’ by the end of November — a seeming reference to Machado — stressing, ‘All who want to run for president should be allowed the opportunity.’
Some observers said the opposition parties that participated in the primary should simply recognize Machado once again as their unity candidate, making any ruling on the contest moot.
Machado also helped organize protests against Maduro’s government after she left office, and the government accused her of supporting sanctions against the country, France 24 reported.
Former Venezuelan U.N. diplomat Medina offered advice for the Biden administration on the consequences of trusting Caracas: ‘The income generated from Chevron and other oil companies will potentially fund conflicts on two fronts, ultimately benefiting Maduro’s allies, including [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which are backed by Iran. These groups are further entrenched by the Venezuelan regime, located just three hours from Miami.’
Reuters contributed to this report.