Biden Admin Offers Stern Words — But No Sanctions — As Socialist Regime Continues To Test Democracy Deal

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The Biden administration scolded the Venezuelan socialist regime for a wave of recent political arrests, but it so far has not reimposed the sanctions it relieved in exchange for Venezuela’s promise to hold fair elections.

The State Department released a statement on Tuesday evening condemning the arrests of 33 people — including members of the opposition party, civil society and journalists — by the socialist regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. However, the State Department stopped short of saying that it will reimpose oil sanctions that it eased in October 2023 in exchange for the Venezuelan government’s commitment to embracing democracy and holding free, fair presidential elections later this year.

“The United States continues to support the Venezuelan people in their desire for a peaceful restoration of democracy. Actions that run counter to the spirit and the letter of the Barbados Agreement will have consequences,” the State Department said in its Tuesday statement, referencing the formal name of the democracy-for-sanctions relief deal the U.S. brokered with the Maduro regime. “We urge Maduro and his representatives to adhere to the electoral roadmap agreement, including by announcing a clear timeline for the 2024 presidential election, and to reinstate all political candidates.” (RELATED: ‘Stop Negotiating With Terrorists And A Dictator’: GOP Lawmakers Rip Biden’s Move To Ease Venezuela Oil Sanctions)

The recent wave of apparently politically-motivated arrests is not the first development that suggests the Maduro regime may not be serious about embracing liberal democracy. Just weeks after the regime agreed to the Barbados pact, the top court in Venezuela suspended the primary election victory of María Corina Machado, the top opposition candidate.

“We are concerned by the issuance of arrest orders and the detention of at least 33 Venezuelans. These individuals include democratic opposition figures, civil society, and journalists. Arrests without due process run contrary to the spirit of the October 2023 electoral roadmap agreement signed in Barbados between the Unitary Platform and representatives of Nicolás Maduro, a spokesperson for the State Department told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The sanctions relief the United States has provided in response to concrete steps towards credible elections and respect for human rights will only be renewed if Venezuela meets its commitments under the electoral roadmap.”

Currently, Machado is still banned from holding public office pending the outcome of an appeal, according to Reuters. She has also claimed that the Maduro government is making a deliberate effort to intimidate her and her supporters by abducting people and vandalizing the offices of her party, according to the BBC.

“The U.S. government will take action if Maduro and his representatives do not meet their commitments under the electoral roadmap,” a State Department spokesperson told the DCNF in October 2023 after the suspension was announced.

Notably, the Venezuelan government did release 10 American prisoners in December 2023.

Oil is the key pillar of Venezuela’s economy, which has otherwise fallen apart since socialism’s rise in the country. In the time since the Biden administration eased the sanctions on Venezuelan oil production, Venezuela has sold oil to buyers that reportedly include Sinochem, China’s state-owned oil and petrochemical company, according to Reuters.

The Biden administration eased sanctions on the Venezuelan oil sector after taking numerous measures to deter production in the U.S., such as finalizing the most restrictive offshore oil and gas leasing schedule in American history in December 2023, invalidating drilling leases sold in Alaska by the Trump administration and moving to take massive swaths of federally controlled land off the table for drilling.

Former President Donald Trump imposed stringent sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil corporation in 2019 to pressure Maduro into stepping down in the wake of the reportedly fraudulent presidential election the year prior. The Trump administration recognized Juan Guaido, who has since fled Venezuela, as the rightful winner of that election; Maduro’s regime issued a warrant for his arrest in October 2023 alleging that Guaido committed treason, according to EFE news.

Maduro was a staunch loyalist of the late Hugo Chavez, and, like Chavez, Maduro’s regime has been known to violently weaponize the country’s legal system against political dissent and opposition leaders, according to Amnesty International.

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

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