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18 Apr, 2024 20:08

US reimposes Venezuela sanctions

A six-month reprieve has been ended due to concerns surrounding upcoming presidential elections in the South American country
US reimposes Venezuela sanctions

The US has reinstated sanctions on Venezuela’s crucial energy industry, over what Washington describes as Caracas’ failure to adhere to democratic principles. The move comes as the nation prepares for presidential elections.

President Joe Biden’s administration said on Wednesday it would not renew a license agreed in Barbados in October in which Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and the country’s opposition agreed to hold free and fair elections, monitored by international observers. In exchange for the election commitment the US temporarily lifted some of its sanctions on Venezuelan oil, gas, gold, and sovereign debt. The deal expired early on Thursday.

“Nicolas Maduro and his representatives have not fully met the commitments made under the electoral roadmap agreement,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller stated.

“Therefore, General License 44 – which authorized transactions related to the oil and gas sector with Venezuela – will expire after midnight and not be renewed,” he added.

The US Treasury Department announced on Wednesday that it had issued a replacement license giving companies 45 days to “wind down” their business and transactions in the OPEC member-state’s oil and gas sector.

Washington has repeatedly threatened in recent months to reinstate energy sanctions unless Maduro made good on his promises.

Senior US officials reportedly said that Maduro has honored some commitments under last year’s deal, but has failed to meet others, including allowing the opposition to run the candidate of its choice against him in the July 28 election.

Venezuelan officials have insisted they are ready for any scenario and can weather renewed sanctions.

“We are open [for business], willing to keep progressing along with all foreign companies that want to come,” Oil Minister Pedro Tellechea was cited as telling reporters after the US announcement. “Venezuela is ready to secure the stability of global oil markets that we need so much,” the minister stressed.

According to a recent Reuters report, Venezuela’s oil exports in March soared to their highest level since early 2020 as customers rushed to complete purchases ahead of the predicted expiration of the license.

Caracas has been under US sanctions for over 15 years. The latest round of restrictions was imposed after Washington refused to recognize Nicolas Maduro as the country’s president following the 2018 election, and instead declared the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, to be the ‘interim leader’ of the country. In 2019, Guaido called for a popular uprising against Maduro, which ultimately failed. He then moved to live in Miami under US protection.

Meanwhile, all Venezuelan government assets were frozen in the US and any dealings with US citizens and companies were barred.

Maduro had previously called for a “new era” of US-Venezuela relations “based on respect and collaboration.” Venezuela demands the permanent lifting of all US sanctions against the country, according to the president, who says Caracas has abided by the deal signed in Barbados.