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Oct 24, 2023, 1:50pm EDT
South America
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Can María Corina Machado actually threaten Maduro’s presidency in Venezuela?

Machado
REUTERS/Gaby Oraa
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María Corina Machado, a former center-right member of Venezuela’s legislature, won the presidential primary to lead the opposition in the country’s upcoming presidential election.

However, it’s unclear whether the 56-year-old activist and longtime government critic will actually be able to run for president given that President Nicolás Maduro’s government has barred her from next year’s race. But the U.S. has threatened to roll back sanction reliefs if Maduro does not restore democratic norms and lift such bans on opposition figures.

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Once one of the most prolific opposition voices in Venezuelan politics, Machado “has gone more or less unnoticed in recent years,” notes Spanish newspaper El País. While she was disqualified from holding office, Machado also distanced herself from the “failed” opposition government of Juan Guaidó, saying that participation in the electoral process to bolster Guaidó “legitimized Chavismo,” the paper wrote. Machado’s nomination has already accelerated rifts within the opposition, with other leaders refusing to congratulate her because her party does not officially align with the Unitary Platform that promotes dialogue with the current Venezuelan government. “A candidate has been chosen, [but] the leadership of the opposition is something else,” said the head of the Unitary Platform after Machado’s nomination.

But Latin American leaders are calling for Venezuela’s opposition to unite behind Machado, warning that failing to do so will only benefit Maduro. “There can’t be a negotiating table without Machado,” former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana told NTN24, adding that other opposition leaders in Venezuela “don’t have political legitimacy” after years of failing to withstand attacks by Maduro. “We don’t have time for dissidents right now,” said former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, cautioning the opposition to prioritize Machado’s physical safety because “since she is not someone that can be intimidated, they could possibly harm her in whatever way they have in their reach.”

The White House wants to “deepen the dialogue” with Caracas now that Machado is nominated, Voice of America reports. The two countries recently agreed to have oil sanctions on Venezuela potentially lifted so long as Maduro agreed to free and fair elections, with the White House specifically asking for Machado’s disqualification to be resolved. While Maduro has welcomed “a new era” of relations with the U.S., his government has also pushed back against lifting Machado’s ban on running for office, particularly as multiple polls show strong support for her. “Venezuela does not accept pressure or blackmail, or bribes, or interference from any power or country,” said Maduro’s chief negotiator with the U.S.

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