The EU extends sanctions on Venezuela for six months

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The European Union has decided to extend the sanctions against Venezuela that it has maintained since 2017. However, in a gesture of recognition of the timid steps - still very uncertain - taken by the Government of Nicolás Maduro and the opposition towards holding presidential elections next year next year, the review of the measure will be done within six months and not in a year, as is usual. Furthermore, the Twenty-Seven declare themselves willing to “reevaluate the scope” of the measures and even “reverse them at any time” if a “concrete, sustainable and verifiable” advance in the political situation of the South American country is confirmed.

The Barbados political agreement of October "represents a positive and necessary step in the continuation of the process of inclusive dialogue and towards the restoration of democracy in Venezuela," says the Council of the EU in a statement regarding the pact that emerged from a table of dialogue between the Government and the opposition to hold presidential elections in the second half of 2024 with observation by the Union and other international actors.

Taking into account this “context”, it has been decided, in an “exceptional” manner, to shorten the duration of the renewal of the sanctions “from 12 to six months”, adds the official European note, issued within the framework of the discussions of the foreign ministers who meet this Monday and Tuesday in Brussels.

At the previous meeting of the European Foreign Ministers, at the end of October in Luxembourg, the head of Spanish diplomacy, José Manuel Albares, had even proposed that the lifting of sanctions be studied now given the “positive evolution” of the dialogue. in Venezuela and Washington's decision to partially and temporarily suspend its sanctions on Venezuelan oil, gas and gold.

Just before the Luxembourg appointment, the victory of María Corina Machado in the opposition primaries in Venezuela had been announced, which should make her Nicolás Maduro's rival in the 2024 elections. A victory that the Venezuelan Supreme Court only invalidated a few days later, after the Maduro Government began to talk about fraud and mobilized the Prosecutor's Office against Machado, politically disqualified by Chavismo for 15 years.

After learning of the Venezuelan judicial decision, the North American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, warned Maduro that he does not have “carte blanche” to violate the agreement with the opposition and that doing so could mean the complete return of sanctions. “If the regime has in fact violated the agreement reached, then we will take the necessary measures (…); "They will not have carte blanche to carry out actions that contradict the commitments made to move towards free and fair elections," said the head of US diplomacy, according to Agence France Presse.

Without mentioning the latest lurches by Caracas, the EU limits itself to signaling its willingness to “take steps” and even consider “relieving or reversing” the sanctions. Of course, he warns, always “depending on the evolution of the situation and the implementation” of the political agreement with the opposition. And also, he adds, the “progress made towards the unconditional release of all those unjustly detained, freedom of expression, including members of the press, the independence of the electoral process and judicial institutions”, key elements that should allow the holding of “credible, inclusive and transparent democratic elections”, in addition to guaranteeing “respect for human and political rights”, he adds.

European sanctions are reviewed regularly and, in the case of Venezuela, the decision on whether to extend them or not had to be made before this Tuesday, the date on which the last extension, approved on December 2 of last year, expired. The EU has applied sanctions against Venezuela since 2017, when it approved an embargo on weapons and equipment that could be used for internal repression. In addition, it prepared a list of individuals on whom travel bans and asset freezes are imposed, which has been expanding in recent years, reaching more than fifty sanctioned individuals.

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