WASHINGTON, Oct 18 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration will almost immediately ease sanctions on Venezuela’s oil and gas sector in response to the 2024 elections agreed between the Venezuelan government and opposition parties. A senior US State Department official told Reuters. Wednesday.
After President Nicolas Maduro’s re-election in 2018, the United States imposed harsh sanctions on Venezuela to punish his regime, which the United States and other Western governments rejected as a sham. Since 2019, state oil company PDVSA has been banned from exporting to selected markets due to US sanctions.
The United States has eased a wide range of energy-related sanctions, but is prepared to reverse them if Maduro’s government does not lift bans on opposition presidential candidates and release political prisoners, the official said on condition of anonymity. said.
The Biden administration, which has long promised sanctions relief in exchange for democratic concessions from President Maduro, is issuing permits that include allowing Caracas to resume trade with Caribbean countries, officials said.
This marks a significant step in the Biden administration’s increased engagement with Venezuela, a departure from former President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the socialist-ruled OPEC member.
The US move follows an agreement reached in Barbados on Tuesday between Maduro’s government and the US-backed opposition to guarantee internationally monitored elections to be held in the second half of 2024. be.
However, the deal fell short of what the United States had hoped for, as it did not lift the government’s ban on opposition candidates barred from public office and did not mention the release of political prisoners.
The official said the U.S. welcomed the election agreement, but viewed it as a “partial agreement towards an electoral roadmap” and that the U.S. was prepared to take further steps regarding Venezuela’s critical energy sector. he added. “Today, tomorrow, it’s going to happen soon.”
But the official cautioned that any U.S. decision on sanctions relief would depend on Maduro’s adherence to the latest agreement and work toward free and fair elections.
“We are prepared to take concrete actions, but certainly we can withdraw these positive incentives if they fail to deliver on their commitments,” the official said.
The official also expressed optimism that the process would lead to the release “in the relatively near future” of Americans planned by the United States for being illegally detained in Venezuela.
Agreement in Barbados
Talks between the government and rebel groups aimed at providing a path out of Venezuela’s long-running political and economic crisis will continue at an undetermined date, the parties said.
The agreement states that both sides can choose candidates for 2024 in accordance with their internal regulations, but there are bans that prevent some opposition figures from taking office, including front-runner Maria Colina Machado in the Oct. 22 primary. was not withdrawn.
Opposition officials in Caracas said Wednesday that much more needs to be done and that lifting the ban was at the heart of negotiations. Some opposition figures told Reuters on Monday that they doubted Maduro’s government would follow through on campaign promises.
But another opposition official said the deal secured certain concessions from President Maduro.
Maduro, who has been president since 2013, is expected to run for re-election, but has not yet officially announced his candidacy.
Reporting by Matt Spetalnick. Additional reporting by Marianna Paraga and Mayella Armas.Editing: Josie Kao
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