Barred Venezuela candidates can take cases to tribunal, partially meeting US demands

By Mayela Armas and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON/CARACAS (Reuters) -Opposition candidates barred from public office in Venezuela will be able to appear before the country’s top tribunal, which will rule on their bans, the country’s government and opposition said in a joint statement late on Thursday.

The announcement comes on the day of a United States deadline for the government of President Nicolas Maduro to take steps to remove the bans or risk the renewal of recently relaxed sanctions.

Candidates can make their petitions between Dec. 1 and Dec. 15, according to the statement, shared on social media by Norway, an observer country at talks between the two sides.

“The Political Administrative Court of the Supreme Justice Tribunal will rule on the admission of the suit and the protection requested,” the statement said.

Those taking their cases to the tribunal must abstain from disrespect toward the state and respect the country’s constitution, the statement added.

Reuters reported this week that the government could allow appeals to advance as a way to partially comply with U.S. demands.

“Today we have taken another step in the right direction,” the head of the government’s negotiating team Jorge Rodriguez said on social media.

Gerardo Blyde, the head of the opposition negotiating team said the announcement was in line with an October deal between the two sides on 2024 presidential elections.

The U.S. in October announced a six-month rollback on some oil industry sanctions and lifted a bond trading ban in exchange for the deal, which stipulated the removal of bans on opposition politicians.

Venezuela’s opposition says the bans are illegal.

The winner of the opposition’s presidential primary, Maria Corina Machado, is among those barred from office.

Earlier on Thursday, a State Department spokesperson said the U.S. was sticking to its threat to “reconsider” steps taken in October if Maduro failed to comply with certain commitments by Thursday’s deadline.

The Biden administration reiterated that it has told the Venezuelan government it must, by the end of November, lay out steps for lifting election bans on opposition candidates, the spokesperson said. Caracas must also begin releasing Venezuelan political prisoners and “wrongfully detained” Americans, the spokesperson added.

The State Department did not immediately reply to a request for comment after the statement was published.

(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick, additional reporting by Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas in Caracas; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Stephen Coates)