Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
Nicolás Maduro AFP

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro further escalated political tensions in the country by saying that his party will win this year's elections "one way or the other."

"When they do it, how they do it, the people are organized and will win," said Maduro during a political rally to commemorate a failed military coup led by former president Hugo Chávez, who would then go on to win the presidency seven years later and designate Maduro as his successor.

The statement comes amid heightened tensions in the country following the confirmation of a ban on opposition leader María Corina Machado, set to challenge Maduro in the polls.

The taking of steps towards freer and fairer elections was a key aspect of negotiations between the government and the opposition, and an agreement to that end led the U.S. government to ease some sanctions on the Latin American country.

The agreement, which followed a series of negotiations in Barbados, stated that the elections would have to take place in the second half of 2024 and that opposition leaders would be able to appeal judicial bans that prevented them from running.

However, the Supreme Court upheld a 15-year ban on Machado, who last year won the opposition's primaries with over 90% of the vote, prompting domestic and foreign backlash. The court said Machado committed "treason" by supporting U.S. sanctions on the country.

At the foreign level, the U.S. is set to reimpose sanctions on the country'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.

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.

At the domestic level, Machado vowed to continue "fighting to conquer democracy through free and fair elections."

Machado also reacted to government officials saying they will hold a meeting on Monday to set the date for the presidential, stating that it "ignores the commitment to free and fair elections in the Barbados agreement." She added that the government is "threatening and blackmailing people and institutions."

Venezuela was ranked second-to-last in Transparency International's 2023 Corruption Perception Index, remaining the most corrupt country in Latin America. The payment of bribes and the co-optation of judges and prosecutors at all levels of the justice system are just some of the major threats to democracy and the main propellers of corruption in the country, the organization said.

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