Opposition Director Arrested by Intelligence Service, Venezuela

Trent Barr
Trent Barr
Trent has years of experience and training in open source intelligence gathering and journalism. He specializes in Latin American, German, and Vatican affairs, with a broader interest in European politics. Trent serves as the Latin America Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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The Venezuelan Intelligence Service, Sebin, arrested opposition candidate María Corina Machado’s campaign director and regional coordinator for their party, Vente Venezuela, Emill Brandt Ulloa, on Friday night.

This follows Machado’s ongoing struggle to become a legitimate candidate following her 15-year-long ban against holding office, which was ratified by the nation’s Supreme Court on January 26th. The ban was handed out following Machado’s criticisms of the Maduro government, the support of US sanctions on Venezuela, as well as her supposed role in a corruption scandal. Machado was a leading candidate in the Venezuelan primaries prior to her disqualification from running for president.

Maria Corina Machado speaks at a rally on the anniversary of the 1958 uprising against he Venezuelan Military Dictatorship (Photo – AFP/Gabriel Oran)

In a statement after hearing news of her original ban in June 2023, Machado stated that “a ban by the regime is garbage; it means zero,” before claiming that such a ban is a sign that Maduro’s government “is being defeated.”

Sanctions and Bans:

In response to the ban and for perceived violations of the 2023 Barbados agreement, the United States government revoked a portion of their sanctions relief in late January, reimposing sanctions on Venezuela’s gold mining industry, which led to fierce condemnation from the Venezuelan government.

The Barbados agreement was signed in order to promote political rights and electoral guarantees for those wishing to run for office. The agreement outlines several key points, including recognizing the right of political actors to choose their candidates freely and promoting electoral guarantees before the National Electoral Council.

The president of Venezuela’s National Assembly Jorge Rodríguez (left) and opposition delegation head Gerardo Blyde sign the Barbados Agreement in October. (Photo – AFP/Randy Brooks)

The agreement would also facilitate the release of 10 American prisoners, six of whom are believed to be falsely imprisoned, held in Venezuela in exchange for Alexander Saab, a Colombian businessman and Maduro’s close ally who was imprisoned in the U.S. on money laundering charges. 

Politicians found guilty of corruption are barred from holding public office for 15 years in Venezuela. However, the opposition has claimed the government has abused this power to control who can and cannot run for the presidency following the barring of three opposition candidates, including Machado.


These bans are surely an effort for Maduro to maintain power within Venezuela as the leader struggles to control the nation’s record high inflation, poverty, and violence within the country. For many Venezuelans, opposition candidates like Machado offer an escape from the hardships under Maduro’s rule; the President sees this and seeks to eliminate any threat to his position within Venezuela.

Opposition candidates will have to struggle if they wish to become true opponents against Maduro, as much of the federal government of Venezuela is controlled by Maduro’s United Socialists party while other mainstream parties are also thought to be controlled by the President.

With the rise in popularity of the opposition, Maduro has made a bold move in order to secure Venezuelan loyalty as well as measure his approval rating. This, of course, is the president’s claim against the disputed Essequibo region within Guyana, the border region between the two nations, which has long been disputed by Venezuela.

Members of the Venezuelan Military drill on the Colombian border in order to prepare in order to intercept a foreign invasion. (Photo – Reuters)

The historic claims, along with the recent discovery of a wealth of natural resources including gold and oil, have been a boon for Maduro in both raising public opinion of the government amidst the pounding of war drums and as a way to gauge the amount of public support Maduro currently enjoys.

While a war for Essequibo is unlikely, it is still plausible. Maduro may see this wealth of resources as a way to refill the near-empty coffers of the Venezuelan government. However, in doing so, Maduro would face even more severe action by the western, if not the world’s, powers in a conflict that would look very similar to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.