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Nicolas Maduro gets sanctions relief, strings Joe Biden along on 2024 elections

With the presence of representatives from the European Union, the U.S., Latin American governments, and (some) Venezuelan opposition figures, the regime led by Nicolas Maduro agreed this week in Barbados to a "set of electoral guarantees" for the "upcoming presidential election" in the second semester of 2024. Maduro also submitted to electoral observers from the EU, U.N., African Union, and Carter Centre, and, crucially, agreed to audits of the electoral system. Maduro will not honor this agreement.

As probably any auditor or independent electoral observer would conclude, electoral conditions in Venezuela are anything but free and fair, competitive affairs. The electoral authority (CNE) is but an appendix of the government, which Maduro controls absolutely. The latest example is the appointment of Elvis Amoroso as CNE head. Amoroso's track record includes disqualifying Maria Corina Machado, expected winner of opposition primaries to be held this coming Sunday.  

Venezuela's electronic electoral system -a bespoke Smartmatic creation bought by Jorge Rodriguez- has never been audited in the way audits are normally carried out in democratic countries. It is off limits, or in the words of an electoral observation report from the European Union (page 25):

"While the source codes are owned by the CNE they are for commercial reasons not made available for public scrutiny and no independent third party audits have been conducted on any part of the electronic voting system."

The electoral roll is notoriously opaque and has been inflated out of all verifiable proportion. The last audit attempt was done in 2005 and was stopped by Jorge Rodriguez, signatory to the agreements this week in Barbados who, at the time, was CNE's top official.

Meaningful scrutiny means one thing for Maduro: electoral defeat. He knows it, of course. Jorge Rodriguez also knows, and his sister Delcy, and Diosdado Cabello, and the military. Maduro also knows that Biden might be out in November 2024.

It is this site's belief that Maduro has no intention of honouring agreements. The U.S. Treasury has just amended six licenses, which in practical terms means that a ton of cash might come to Venezuela between now and then, which will reinforce Maduro's already firm grip. Sanctions relief have also kickstarted a rebound of Venezuelan distressed bonds in the secondary market and have opened the possibility for numerous creditors to recoup some of their money.

In reality, Biden sleepwalked into Venezuela's nightmare. Neither the sanctions regime, nor the disintegration of the opposition movement are of his doing. Current international geopolitical scenario has forced a rethink in the White House, where the calculus may well be to appease the lesser of many evils. Because chavismo can be and is many things, but is not in the league of Putin and is not driven by religious fanaticism.

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