HOUSTON: The United States Treasury Department is granting a licence to Trinidad and Tobago to develop a major gas field located in Venezuelan territorial waters, marking a further easing of some sanctions on Venezuela.
According to a senior Biden administration official, the licence, which was issued at Trinidad’s request and is intended to improve Caribbean regional energy security, means the island nation can resume doing business with Venezuela’s heavily sanctioned state-run oil company PDVSA.
Speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, the official said that “the Maduro regime will not be permitted to receive any cash payments from this project” and that all remaining US sanctions would remain unchanged and still be enforced.
“This decision is the result of extensive diplomacy between Vice-President Kamala Harris and Caribbean leaders, who have made it clear that granting this specific licence would help ensure their energy security and decrease the region’s reliance on energy resources from other countries, including Russia,” the official said.
PDVSA has found reserves of 4.2 trillion cubic feet in the Dragon field, on the Venezuelan side of its maritime border with Trinidad. The project was headed for production over a decade ago but stalled over a lack of capital and partners, as well as sanctions.
Under US sanctions, companies and governments must obtain authorisation from the US Treasury Department to do business with PDVSA. President Joe Biden’s administration has granted only a few such licences since taking office in January 2021.
The latest move follows a round of negotiations in November between Maduro’s socialist government and the opposition, aimed at finding a path to new elections. But Maduro has resisted sending his negotiating team back to the table since then.
US partners in the Caribbean have called for help to deal with higher energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. — Reuters