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LATIN AMERICA | 24-01-2024 08:53

Venezuelan opposition leader María Corina Machado denounces official 'persecution'

María Corina Machado, who has been barred from running in Venezuela's presidential elections this year, on Tuesday accused the authorities of intimidation.

Venezuelan opposition leader María Corina Machado, who has been barred from running in presidential elections this year, on Tuesday accused the nation's authorities of intimidation as thousands marched in support of the government.

Machado said her Vente Venezuela party's headquarters were vandalised and two of its members abducted in violation of a pact between President Nicolás Maduro's government and the opposition for a free and fair vote.

Machado published photographs on social media of her party's headquarters sporting graffiti with the slogan "Bolivarian Fury" – a rallying cry launched by Maduro as he denounces alleged "terrorist" attempts against him. It is taken from the country's full name: the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

On Monday, authorities in Caracas said they had arrested 32 civilians and soldiers involved in an alleged US-backed plot to assassinate the president, and implicated Machado in it.

A day later, thousands took to the streets in support of Maduro, responding to calls by the ruling party.

Maduro, addressing marchers, vowed that: "I will continue governing this country with the support of the Venezuelan people."

He added: "If the fascists ever hurt me... I leave it to you to do what you have to do to restore justice and peace in Venezuela. Activate the Bolivarian fury!"

Maduro has not said whether he will seek another term in elections, for which no date has been set.

His reelection to a second term in 2018 was not recognised by dozens of countries and triggered a barrage of sanctions.

 

'Aggression, disappearances, persecution'

Machado, for her part, said recent government actions were threatening an agreement struck in Barbados last year meant to guarantee "a peaceful and participatory electoral campaign and of the guarantees that candidates can move freely around the country."

Machado added: "I want to tell the international community that we must put a stop to this madness because this is what the 'Bolivarian fury' means: aggression, disappearances, persecution."

She claimed that two senior party members had "disappeared," having possibly been detained, and others were being "persecuted."

Brian Nichols, the top United States government diplomat for Latin America, said on X Tuesday he was "deeply concerned by recent actions against the opposition and civil society in Venezuela based on unsupported allegations."

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller issued a statement later Tuesday saying at least 33 Venezuelans, "including members of the democratic opposition, civil society, former members of the military and journalists" had either been detained or had arrest orders issued against them.

"Actions that run counter to the spirit and the letter of the Barbados Agreement will have consequences," Miller said, calling on Maduro to announce a timeline for the 2024 presidential election "and to reinstate all political candidates."

The United States eased sanctions against Venezuela after the Barbados agreement was reached last year, allowing Chevron to resume limited oil extraction as part of an effort to keep down global prices as the West pressed sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine.

 

Barred

Machado remains barred from holding public office despite winning overwhelming support in a primary vote last October.

She was disqualified by the authorities for alleged corruption and for backing sanctions against Caracas.

A public event she was meant to address Tuesday was displaced by one of the pro-government marches.

In a report last year, the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern about the "persecution of dissidents" in Venezuela as well as the "intimidation, persecution, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of journalists, human rights defenders and political activists."

 

– TIMES/AFP

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