The Biden administration has employed sanctions or issued threats of sanctions against foreign nations that have excluded opposition candidates from participating in elections. This approach has prompted some lawmakers to scrutinize the recent decision by the Colorado Supreme Court to bar former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 election ballot.
In a 4-3 ruling on Tuesday, the Colorado Supreme Court determined that Trump should be removed from the state’s 2024 election ballots, citing his disqualification under the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.” It’s noteworthy that this decision was made even though the former president had not faced criminal conviction for such an offense. The Biden administration’s previous use of sanctions as a response to foreign nations suppressing political competition and eliminating opponents from election ballots has been highlighted by several lawmakers in discussions this week.
“The U.S. has put sanctions on other countries for doing exactly what the Colorado Supreme Court has done today,” Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said on Tuesday.
“We’d threaten sanctions against countries that had their courts exclude a challenger to protect the incumbent,” Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee said Tuesday.
Today’s ruling attempting to disqualify President Trump from the Colorado ballot is nothing but a thinly veiled partisan attack.— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) December 20, 2023
Regardless of political affiliation, every citizen registered to vote should not be denied the right to support our former president and the… https://t.co/yMm4wTb1K8
Venezuela, situated in Central America and governed by a socialist dictatorship, faced sanctions under the previous Trump administration due to perceived undemocratic practices. In a shift of policy, the Biden administration initiated the process of easing some of these sanctions in October. However, this move was contingent upon Venezuela meeting certain conditions, which included a commitment to conducting fair elections in 2024 and allowing political opponents of the ruling dictator, Nicolas Maduro, to participate in the electoral process.
The State Department under President Biden conveyed to the DCNF in November that any failure by Venezuela to adhere to the terms of the agreement would prompt the United States to reconsider its actions, including the potential reinstatement of sanctions.
Surprisingly, within less than a month of consenting to the Biden administration’s terms, Venezuelan courts suspended the results of a primary election victory for a prominent political opposition leader. This suspension, pronounced by Venezuela’s highest court, was grounded in allegations against the opposition leader, ranging from identity theft and money laundering to conspiracy. The development raised questions about the sincerity of Venezuela’s commitment to the conditions set by the Biden administration for the easing of sanctions.
The Biden administration remains steadfast in its efforts to compel Venezuela to conduct free elections in the coming year. Despite maintaining the threat of taking punitive measures, such as the reinstatement of sanctions, should Maduro’s government fail to adhere to its commitment, there has been no reimposition of sanctions thus far.
In a similar vein, the Biden administration took a stance against Nicaragua, a Central American nation under dictatorship, by imposing sanctions in 2021, as reported by the Treasury Department. The rationale behind these sanctions was attributed to Nicaragua’s conduct of a “sham election” in 2021, during which the government, led by incumbent President Daniel Ortega, systematically excluded most of his political opponents from the ballot.
CNN reported that only five of Ortega’s political opponents appeared on the 2021 ballot, and they were relatively unknown figures with minimal chances of winning. Seven other political opponents were barred from participating in the election, having been “unjustly arrested” prior to the electoral process. This maneuver ensured a predetermined and manipulated outcome well before election day, according to assessments by the Treasury Department and USA Today.
The Biden administration, in justifying the sanctions, pointed to the Nicaraguan government’s “groundless” exploitation of Law 1055, which prohibits individuals deemed as “traitors” by the government from running for public office. This utilization of legislation was characterized as an arbitrary and unjust means of suppressing political opposition.
“The Ortega regime is using laws and institutions to detain members of the political opposition and deprive Nicaraguans from the right to vote,” Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea M. Gacki said in a November 2021 statement. “We stand with the Nicaraguan people in their calls for reform and a return to democracy.”
In 2020, the former Trump administration imposed sanctions on Belarus, an Eastern European country with strong affiliations to Russia. The sanctions were prompted by apprehensions that Belarus conducted “fraudulent” elections that year. The Treasury Department noted that the country was accused of excluding political opponents from the ballot and tampering with voting records.
The Biden administration, upon taking office, chose to maintain these sanctions. In a statement issued in June 2021, it censured Belarus for conducting elections deemed illegitimate. The criticism centered on the country’s actions in preventing “multiple opposition candidates from appearing on the ballot” and imposing restrictions on the opposition’s ability to campaign, as outlined by the Treasury Department.
“The United States and its partners will not tolerate continued attacks on democracy and the ceaseless repression of independent voices in Belarus,” Gacki said in a June 2021 statement. “Today’s actions, taken on both sides of the Atlantic, hold accountable those who continue to suppress the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people.”