Daniel Noboa, Ecuador, Elections, Politics
Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa AFP

Ecuadorian president Daniel Noboa anticipated this week that his government will not recognize Venezuela's presidential elections, which are set to take place this year, saying "they are not free."

"We don't agree at all (...) with there not being free elections in Venezuela. But it's not like we don't recognize the Maduro government at the moment," said Noboa in an interview with TV chain Ecuavisa and reported by EFE news agency.

Political tensions in Venezuela escalated during the past week after the country's Supreme Court upheld a ruling that bans María Corina Machado, the opposition's likely presidential candidate, from running for office.

Ecuador was among the several countries that condemned the decision, saying it is "contrary to the spirit of the Barbados agreements, which seek to pave the way towards democratic and transparent elections in Venezuela."

The toughest response to Machado's ban came from the United States, which reimposed sanctions on Venezuela's oil and gas as well as its state-owned mining company. The Department of Treasury gave companies transacting with, Minerven, Venezuela's state-owned gold mining company until Feb. 13 to wind down operations.

Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado is barred by Venezuelan authorities
Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado is barred by Venezuelan authorities from holding public office. AFP

As a result, the Venezuelan government threatened to halt deportation flights from the U.S., which had resumed in October 2023 in response to to a large influx of migration from the country and the easing of sanctions from the U.S. in exchange for working in the Barbados agreements.

Delcy Rodríguez, vice president to the Maduro government, called the decision "rude and improper blackmail" and a "deliberate attempt to hit the Venezuelan oil and gas industry" on X. She stated that if the sanctions aren't removed, the country will stop receiving deported Venezuelan migrants starting Feb. 13.

The U.S. had previously eased sanctions in Venezuela in exchange for commitments from the Maduro administration to take steps toward a freer and fairer elections.

Venezuela could earn about $16 billion from oil if they sanctions continued be eased, according to Francisco Monaldi, director of the Latin American Energy Program at Rice University's Baker Institute in Texas.

However, the prospect seems further away following theSupreme court's ruling that upholds a 15-year ban on the opposition leader. Machado is a long time foe to Maduro and won the opposition's independently run presidential primary with 90% of the votes last year.

Machado, on her end, called the court ruling blocking her presidential candidacy "judicial criminality." After the ruling, Machado tweeted that her campaign's "fight to conquer democracy through free and fair elections" is not over.

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