Biden lifts sanctions on Venezuelan oil, gas and gold after agreements with the opposition | International

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Faithful to its carrot and stick policy with Venezuela, the United States has decided to ease sanctions on the oil, gas and gold sector, as reported by a senior official in a call with journalists this Wednesday. The decision of the Government of President Joe Biden is a response to the political agreement between representatives of the Government of Nicolás Maduro and the Unitary Platform of the opposition to respect the constitutional calendar and hold elections next year. The partial lifting of sanctions has immediate effect, but in the case of oil and gas it is temporary, until six months from now, and will only be renewed if the Maduro Government continues taking steps to restore democracy.

“The ultimate goal of our sanctions is to provoke a positive change in behavior. Regarding Venezuela, the United States has taken advantage of sanctions to encourage the parties to adopt concrete measures to restore democratic order in the country. “We are now issuing temporary and limited authorizations primarily in the oil and gas sector in response to the positive changes announced yesterday,” said a US government source on condition of anonymity.

This is a partial lift. Other sanctions and restrictions imposed by the United States on Venezuela remain in force and the Government of Joe Biden maintains the authority to suspend all authorizations in the event that Maduro and his representatives do not comply with their commitments, the same source added. “We are firmly committed to the Venezuelan people and will continue to work in the international community to support the strengthening and restoration of democracy so that Venezuelans can rebuild their lives in their country,” he indicated.

“The Treasury is prepared to modify or revoke the authorizations at any time, if Maduro's representatives do not comply with their commitments,” the Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nelson, said in a statement. “We are with the Venezuelan people and we support Venezuelan democracy,” he added.

Specifically, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) authorizes for six months all transactions related to oil and gas sector operations in Venezuela, including the authorization of ordinary and necessary financial transactions with certain related blocked Venezuelan banks. with the oil and gas sector. Thus, the production, extraction, sale and export of oil or gas from Venezuela, and the supply of related goods and services, are authorized; the payment of invoices for goods or services related to operations in the oil or gas sector in Venezuela; new investments in sector operations in the country, and the delivery of Venezuelan oil and gas to creditors of the Government of Venezuela, including those of Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PdVSA), for the purposes of debt payment.

For foreign companies that operate in Venezuela such as the Spanish Repsol or the Italian ENI, which have had to balance to avoid violating the sanctions, the measure is a relief. The increase in crude oil supply on the international market may also mean less pressure on prices, especially at a time of instability in the Middle East.

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In addition, a second general license is granted authorizing operations with Minerven, the Venezuelan state gold mining company, which, according to the US Treasury, will reduce gold trading on the black market.

Restrictions on purchases by Americans in the secondary market of certain sovereign bonds and bonds or shares issued by PdVSA are also lifted. The ban on trading in the primary Venezuelan bond market is maintained. The Treasury assesses that this would have the positive effect of displacing harmful actors in this market, and with negligible financial benefit for the Venezuelan regime.

The United States has introduced precautions so that the lifting of sanctions does not allow Russian companies or investments to benefit. Sanctions on Venezuela related to Iran have also not been lifted.

One of the points of the agreement signed in Barbados by the Government and the opposition indicates that “authorization for all presidential candidates and political parties” will be promoted so that they can participate in the presidential election, but warns that this will be “as long as they comply with the requirements established by law.” That tagline maintains the possibility that vetoes will be used to prevent the registration of candidates like María Corina Machado, disqualified for 15 years and virtual winner of the opposition primaries that will be held this Sunday.

Although the head of the Chavista delegation that went to Barbados, Jorge Rodríguez, said that someone who is disqualified “cannot be a candidate,” a senior official in the United States Government has pointed out that Washington has expressed to the Venezuelan Government “very clearly” that it is essential so that Venezuelans can have a democratic election “that all candidates have a path to be authorized.” He added that he hopes to see progress on this before the end of November.

Deportation of immigrants

In parallel, Joe Biden's Government chartered this Wednesday the first deportation flight for Venezuelan immigrants who had crossed the US border without authorization and whose implementation has been negotiated in parallel with the lifting of sanctions on the energy sector. The Biden Government considers that the possibility of directly repatriating immigrants to Venezuela is essential to discourage their arrival.

“Today, the United States, led by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in coordination with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, facilitated the first charter flight to Venezuela as part of other routine ICE expulsion flights conducted throughout the hemisphere and around the world. “DHS continues to enforce United States immigration laws, while strengthening consequences for those who illegally cross our border,” the immigration service said in a statement.

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