The U.S. will ease some sanctions on Venezuela in exchange for continued dialogue between President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition, the Biden administration announced Tuesday.
The sanctions relief allows Chevron Corp. to negotiate the terms of its license and potential future activities with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA.
In October, Maduro suspended talks held in Mexico with the country's opposition leaders in retaliation for the U.S. extradition of Alex Saab, a close ally of the Venezuelan leader who is accused of laundering money.
A senior administration official stressed the measures are being taken at the “request of the Venezuelan interim government and the 'Unity' platform of opposition parties.”
The official said the United States supports a peaceful and negotiated outcome to the Venezuelan political, economic and humanitarian crisis.
“We are going to calibrate our sanctions policy accordingly, to increase pressure or alleviate pressure on the basis of ambitious, concrete and irreversible outcomes that empower the Venezuelan people to determine the future in their country through democratic elections,” the official said.
The move comes after U.S. officials traveled to Venezuela in March to meet with Maduro as it sought to isolate Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. Russia is a close ally of Maduro. It was the highest-level U.S. visit to the socialist country in years. Two jailed Americans were freed after the meeting.
The official said the administration will continue to hold “any actor that engages in corruption, violates U.S. laws, and abuses of human rights accountable.”
The announcement comes one day after the Biden administration eased restrictions on Cuba, including in areas of travel and remittances. It also announced it will boost visa processing at the embassy in Havana.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has criticized both policy moves.
“Giving Maduro a handful of undeserved handouts just so his regime will promise to sit down at a negotiating table is a strategy destined to fail,” Menendez said in a news release. “The United States should only consider recalibrating sanctions in response to concrete steps in negotiations, not simply in response to cheap talk from a criminal dictator.”
The policy moves come three weeks before the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas. The administration official denied the shift in policy has anything to do with the summit.
The administration has been contending with blowback from leaders of some leftist countries after some U.S. officials hinted that Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua would not be invited. The U.S. maintains that invitations have not been issued and final decisions on who will be invited have not been made.
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