The Venezuelan opposition nominates a new candidate in a sign of unity

Venezuela’s opposition announced Friday that it will nominate a new candidate to take on President Nicolas Maduro this summer, giving renewed hope to the country’s push for democracy.

In January, the country’s highest court banned the candidacy of the previous candidate, former congresswoman María Corina Machado, leading many Venezuelans to question how free and fair the elections would be. The decision raised questions about whether Ms. Machado’s party, Come Venezuela, would try to insist on her candidacy or coalesce around another candidate.

On Fridays. leaders of several opposition parties announced that Corina Yoris, a philosophy professor, would run in the July 28 elections, a move that analysts saw as a surprising show of unity.

“This is a huge thing,” said Laura Dib, who directs the Venezuela program at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights organization. “It is truly amazing to see the opposition united around one strategy and to show that they are not backing down.”

In October, Maduro signed a deal with the country’s opposition and agreed to work towards a free and fair presidential vote. In the agreement, Maduro said he would hold elections by the end of this year and, in exchange, the United States lifted some economic sanctions as a sign of goodwill.

But days later, Ms. Machado won more than 90% of the vote to choose an opposition candidate, in a primary election run by a commission without government involvement. The decisive results underlined her popularity and raised the prospect that she could beat Maduro in the general election.

Three months later, the country’s highest court, packed with government loyalists, declared Ms. Machado unfit to investigate what the judges said were financial irregularities that occurred when she was a national lawmaker. The government also arrested several members of her campaign. Men on motorbikes attacked supporters of her events.

Ms. Machado made the announcement at a press conference with Ms. Yoris on Friday, just days before the March 25 registration deadline.

“We have found a person I completely trust, respectable, who will carry out this procedure,” Ms. Machado said. “It was a decision born within the debate of the unitary forces and which gave confidence to all of us”.

Ms. Yoris was a member of the committee that helped organize the October primaries, raising speculation that the government may not allow her to register as a candidate. The government questioned the legitimacy of the opposition primaries and legally targeted its organizers.

The fact that the head of another rival opposition party, Omar Barboza, opened the conference was a further show of unity, Ms. Dib said.

“We are heading towards a transition path in Venezuela,” Ms. Yoris said. “We are all needed right now.”

Julie Turkewitz contributed reporting from Santander, Colombia.