Biden Admin Holds Off On Reimposing Oil Sanctions On Socialist Dictatorship That Banned Opposition

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Nick Pope Contributor
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The State Department is reinstating some sanctions against Venezuela’s socialist regime, but it is keeping relief in place for the country’s oil and gas industry until April, the agency announced Tuesday.

The Biden administration struck a deal with the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in October 2023, promising sanctions relief for the country’s mining, oil and gas industries in exchange for holding fair and free presidential elections later this year. However, the Maduro regime has banned the main opposition candidate from running and committed numerous other anti-democratic acts in the months since, prompting the administration to reinstate the mining sanctions but stop short of immediately reimposing restrictions on the country’s crucial oil and gas sector.

In October 2023, the Biden administration brokered the oil-for-democracy deal with the Maduro regime in Barbados, but Venezuelan authorities moved to suspend the leading opposition candidate’s primary election victory weeks after agreeing to the deal. The government arrested 33 people — including members of the opposition party, civil society and reporters — last week, and the top court in Venezuela ruled Friday to uphold an electoral ban against María Corina Machado, the opposition’s leading politician. Machado has also alleged that the government is harassing its opponents and has abducted members of the opposition, according to the BBC. (RELATED: ‘Stop Negotiating With Terrorists And A Dictator’: GOP Lawmakers Rip Biden’s Move To Ease Venezuela Oil Sanctions)

“The United States remains strongly committed to supporting dialogue between the parties and to the aspirations of the Venezuelan people for a democratic future,” the State Department said. “We will continue to work with the international community and all peaceful democratic actors across the political spectrum in Venezuela and leverage mechanisms at our disposal to encourage a return to the principles in the Barbados agreement.”

Oil is the key pillar of Venezuela’s economy, which has fallen apart since socialism’s rise in the country. In recent years, oil export revenues have financed about two-thirds of the Venezuelan government’s budget, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, and the government is anticipating that the loosened sanctions could result in a near-30% increase in its revenues this year, according to Reuters.

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.

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