White House Dropped Key Venezuelan Sanctions After Pressure From Wall Street Power Players: REPORT

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Jake Smith Contributor
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Wall Street investors pressured the Biden administration into dropping certain sanctions against Venezuela, ultimately resulting in a major payday for the investors, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The Biden administration dropped a series of sanctions against Venezuela in October in exchange for several concessions, including the country holding free and fair elections, and warned it could reimpose sanctions at any time if aspects of the deal weren’t met. One of those sanctions, related to the trading of Venezuelan bonds, has been permanently removed following efforts by Wall Street investors to convince the Biden administration they weren’t working, according to the WSJ. (RELATED: Socialist Dictatorship Threatens To Use Border Crisis To Wrangle Concessions From Biden)

The now-removed sanctions prevented U.S. investors from trading in Venezuelan bonds or buying up the country’s regime’s debt, according to the WSJ. U.S. investment firms held approximately $50 billion worth of Venezuelan bonds before the sanctions were first imposed under the Trump administration.

Out of protest, many of these firms chose not to sell their bonds even after sanctions were imposed by the Trump administration, according to the WSJ. When sanctions were lifted by the Biden administration in October, the investment firms began raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from the sale of the Venezuelan bonds because their value had risen.

Behind the scenes, investment firms like Fidelity Investments, Greylock Capital and T. Rowe Price had been pushing the Biden administration to lift the sanctions, arguing that keeping American investments out of the country was making room for foreign adversaries’ own investments, specifically Russia, according to the WSJ. Russia would be able to be able to buy up Venezuelan bonds and debt and potentially write the debt off in exchange for Venezuelan assets, the investors argued, thereby giving Moscow a stronger foothold in the Latin American country.

The members of the investment firms provided the State Department with financial receipts showing that Venezuelan bonds had recently been bought up by Qatar, Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to the WSJ. Those nations had similar investments in Russia and had well-documented histories of serving as a financial channel for Moscow.

The U.S. investors argued that the aforementioned Arab nations and Cyprus were serving as a middle-man for Russian investment in Venezuelan bonds, according to the WSJ.

The State Department’s Venezuela Affairs Unit sent a cable message in early 2023 with the investor’s findings about the sanctions, according to the WSJ. The State Department expressed concern that the U.S. would lose its influence in Venezuela if Russia were able to buy up bonds instead of American investors; those concerns were bolstered when Russian and Venezuelan officials met in April.

“We ultimately concluded that the sanctions were bad for the United States and good for our adversaries,” a senior U.S. official told the WSJ. “They had created openings for China and Iran and Russia to be able to expand a strategic foothold in Venezuela.”

That specific set of sanctions will not be reinstated, though other sanctions against the country could be, according to the WSJ. A former Trump administration Treasury official argued that the investors were using fears of Russian influence as pressure against the Biden administration to drop the sanctions.

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

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