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The United States began the process of reinstating sanctions on Venezuela on Monday, following a statement from a source within the Biden administration indicating the potential cessation of eased restrictions on the oil sector.
This is in light of the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a prohibition against the candidacy of a prominent opposition leader in the upcoming presidential elections.
In October, the US eased sanctions on Venezuela, an OPEC member, in acknowledgement of an agreement regarding this year’s elections.
This easing was contingent upon the Venezuelan government under President Nicolas Maduro releasing certain prisoners with links to the opposition and Americans, as well as advancing efforts to lift restrictions on various opposition figures.
Despite Venezuela conducting a prisoner exchange in December, the Supreme Court, aligned with Maduro, maintained a ban on opposition figure Maria Corina Machado, affirming previous judgments that she was in favour of the sanctions and a provisional government backed by the US, which the Maduro administration holds responsible for the forfeiture of Venezuelan international assets.
On the same day, the detention of several members of the opposition was verified. As an initial step in reinstating sanctions, the Treasury Department announced on Monday night that American entities engaged in transactions with the Venezuelan state-owned gold mining company Minerven must conclude their dealings by February 13.
This announcement followed a statement from an official in the Biden administration earlier that day, suggesting the Treasury permit allowing broader interactions with Venezuela’s oil sector might expire on April 18, should Machado and other opposition individuals be barred from participation.
“Unless Maduro and his representatives in Venezuela are able to get back on track, specifically with regard to allowing all presidential candidates to compete in this year’s election, we will not be in a position to renew General License 44, which provides relief to Venezuela’s oil and gas sector when it comes up for renewal in April,” stated the White House official, who requested anonymity while speaking with Reuters.
The official also mentioned the US is contemplating further, unspecified actions to reprimand the Venezuelan government.