Biden eases some sanctions against Venezuela to encourage talks with opposition

The US government will allow Chevron to negotiate its license with the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, in a bid to promote dialogue between the Maduro regime and the Unitary Platform

Nicolás Maduro
A man cycles past a mural of Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.JUAN CARLOS HERNÁNDEZ (Europa Press)
Miguel Jiménez

The US government has decided to ease some of its sanctions against Venezuela in an effort to promote dialogue between the Nicolás Maduro regime and the Venezuelan opposition, said a US official on Tuesday. The official spoke under the condition of anonymity because the formal announcement had not been made yet. The United States continues to recognize Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, but it is aware that practical steps must be taken to foster democracy in the country.

The decisions are the result of talks with the Venezuelan opposition. “The United States is carrying out a series of measures that have been requested by the Venezuelan interim government [of Juan Guaidó] and the [opposition political alliance] Unitary Platform,” said the official. “I want to make it very clear that the United States is doing this in response to the actions that are taking place in the conversations being held between the regime and the interim government of the Unitary Platform.”

The changes are not of great material importance, but they are a gesture meant to encourage renewed negotiations between the opposition and Maduro. The senior official added that more overtures may be taken if talks advance in a favorable direction, and if not, the decisions may be reversed. Under the changes, the Joe Biden administration will allow the US oil company Chevron to negotiate its license with the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, but not to drill or export oil of Venezuelan origin. “Fundamentally, we are allowing them to talk,” said the official. “I want to highlight that all this is at the request of the interim government and depends on the agreement between both parties to resume negotiations, which should be announced very soon.”

According to Associated Press, Carlos Erik Malpica Flores, a former high-ranking PDVSA executive and the nephew of Venezuela’s first lady, Cecilia Flores, will also be removed from a list of sanctioned individuals.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, relations between the US and Venezuela began to thaw. The US has banned all oil imports from Russia, which puts the oil-rich country of Venezuela in a strategic position. Since the war began on February 24, there has been greater contact between the two administrations, as well as meetings between US officials and the opposition political alliance. Despite this, the US says that its position on Venezuela has not changed.

“We continue acting strongly in defense of the human rights of Venezuela. And we will take note of the widespread reports on extrajudicial killings and the oppression of civil society and political activists, among other abuses,” the source said.

The news comes a day after the Biden administration announced a series of measures to ease relations with Cuba, such as expanding flights to the island and lifting the cap on remittances – moves that reverse some of ex-president Donald Trump’s earlier policies. A senior official, however, stated that the two announcements are not connected, nor bear any relation to the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, to which Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela are not invited.

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