U.S. reimposes oil sanctions on Venezuela for electoral blockade 

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By LatAm Reports Editorial Team

The United States will not renew license 44 that relieves Venezuela’s oil and gas sanctions when it expires on Thursday, to punish President Nicolas Maduro for preventing members of the opposition from running for election and for the campaign of harassment against activists.

This license, which authorizes the production and sale of oil and gas, will be replaced by the 44A, which will allow the liquidation or closure of the outstanding transactions before May 31, explained on Wednesday morning a U.S. official who has requested anonymity at anonymity at anonymity telephone press conference until the afternoon.

President Joe Biden’s government is at odds with the evolution of the electoral process in Venezuela since the signing of the Barbados Agreement last October, because it believes Maduro has fulfilled part of the deal but has ignored its essence.

The Venezuelan authorities have set an electoral calendar and accepted international observation missions in the July 28 elections, in which Maduro is running for a third term.

But they have fallen short in several areas, such as the disqualification of candidates and parties for technicalities, said another U.S. official who has requested anonymity at the same press conference.

Harassment sham.

Washington is particularly concerned that Chavismo’s main rival, María Corina Machado, remains disqualified and Corina Yoris, nominated by her to replace her in the elections, has also been vetoed.

We have witnessed a disturbing campaign of harassment and intimidation against opposition actors solely for exercising their political rights, said another high office that also requested anonymity, referring to the seven members of Machado’s campaign team arrested and as many under arrest warrants.

However, Washington avoids slamming and breaking with Caracas.

As part of its sanctions programs, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) can issue “specific lysing” at the request of the companies, which will evaluate case-by-case – and which are not public, the official explained.

The Venezuelan Minister of Oil, Pedro Tellechea, takes it for granted.

All the companies that made a contract with me until the 18th day (…) take out a private license, he told journalists in Caracas.

These licenses to multinationals such as the French Maurel & Prom, the Spanish Repsol or the Italian Eni – would keep Maduro interested in a negotiation, Francisco Monaldi, director of the Latin American Energy Program at the Baker Institute, at the University of Rice, Texas, told journalists at a time when the United States and Europe are looking for energy sources to mitigate the effects of the war in Ukraine.

The reactivation of sanctions on the energy sector – it should not be seen as a final decision in which we no longer believe that Venezuela can hold competitive and inclusive elections, added an official at the press conference, and specified that the United States will continue to interact with all parties, including the representatives of Maduro, the democratic opposition, civil society and the international community.

Washington has the basis that the Barbados Agreement is the only viable path to electoral progress.

We’re not going to stop.

But Maduro’s government is defiant.

“At no time do we stop producing, of marketing, of exploiting our reserves,” said the Minister of Oil. We’re not going to stop, licensed or unlicensed.

Venezuela’s production stands at around 800,000 barrels per day, after touching the floor in the mid-2020s, when it plummeted below 400,000, but is far from the three million it reached 15 years ago.

However, the revenues of the state oil company PDVSA rose from $3 billion in 2022 to 6.320 million in 2023, according to the Venezuelan government, because the partial and temporary lifting of the embargo allowed shipments to be restored to countries like India.

Venezuela’s oil and gas embargo was imposed in 2019 as part of a battery of sanctions to try to cause Maduro’s fall after the 2018 elections, considered fraudulent by Washington.

Biden’s government, which has already re-infuted Venezuelan gold sanctions, acknowledges having weighed several aspects to decide whether to reverse the easing of the oil embargo less than seven months into the U.S. presidential election, but only one seems to have been decisive.

“We are focused on the political circumstances of the situation in Venezuela,” said a senior official.

Migration is one of the central themes of the November U.S. elections and Venezuela is a point in red, with more than seven million people leaving the country since 2014, according to the UN.

The reimposition of sanctions does not affect previous licenses, such as that granted in 2022 to the US giant Chevron to operate in Venezuela and collect outstanding debts with crude.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in La Prensa NI