US ties easing of Venezuela oil sanctions to fair elections

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro — Reuters

WASHINGTON: The United States will not renew a temporary licence that eases sanctions on Venezuela’s oil and gas sector unless progress is made by President Nicolas Maduro on commitments for free and fair elections this year, a State Department spokesperson says, just days before the licence is to expire.

The United States has been concerned about Venezuela’s electoral process and what it sees as Maduro’s failure to meet his main promises for the July 28 presidential elections.

“Absent progress by Maduro and his representatives in terms of implementing the road map’s provisions, the United States will not renew the licence when it expires on April 18, 2024,” the spokesperson said.

The Biden administration holds out little hope that Maduro will make enough concessions before tomorrow’s deadline to satisfy US demands.

American and Venezuelan officials met secretly in Mexico last week. A source familiar with the talks said they made little or no progress on narrowing their differences.

The United States provided partial sanctions relief in October in response to an election deal reached in Barbados between Maduro’s government and the opposition. It included the right of the opposition to choose its own presidential candidate.

Failure to renew the current licence would not rule out the possibility that the United States could issue a new, more restrictive licence to replace it.

Venezuela’s oil exports in March rose to their highest level since early 2020 as customers rushed to complete purchases ahead of the predicted expiration of the US licence, Reuters reported this month.

Venezuela’s state-run oil firm, PDVSA, has said it is prepared for any scenario, including the return of full oil sanctions.

President Joe Biden’s aides are still discussing a range of options ahead of the expiration tomorrow of the US licence that has allowed Venezuela to freely sell its crude, according to people familiar with the matter. — Reuters

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