The US will not substantially alter its sanctions targeting Venezuela’s oil sector until Caracas holds free and fair elections, a US official said one day after Washington issued a limited waiver allowing LPG sales.
By Argus – Haik Gugarats
Jul 13, 2021
The US Treasury Department yesterday authorized Venezuela to import LPG from the US and other sources, the first crack in the wall of sanctions Washington has imposed against Caracas in recent years. But to the consternation of US authorities, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s government on the same day detained a close associate of opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom the US recognizes as the country’s interim leader.
“Yesterday’s disruption of political opposition to Mr. Maduro certainly makes it harder to demonstrate that Maduro and his supporters are going to allow this to be a level playing field,” US deputy assistant secretary of state Kevin O’Reilly said today in a virtual event hosted by Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council. “That kind of action against those political leaders is utterly unacceptable.”
The US sanctions regime has made it all but impossible for Venezuela to export crude to any destination other than China, while also effectively prohibiting imports of diesel in exchange for shipments of Venezuelan crude. President Joe Biden’s administration issued a joint declaration with the EU and Canada last month that promised to consider sanctions relief if the Venezuelan government and opposition forces negotiate successfully to resolve the Opec producer’s protracted political and economic crisis.
Norway and the wider EU have been working behind the scenes to lay the groundwork for negotiations between the government and various factions of the political opposition, with the goal of establishing credible conditions for state and local elections in November. The US would need to see that the November ballot is truly competitive to begin considering sanctions relief, O’Reilly said.