Fernando Blasi, the new representative of Venezuela’s opposition in the United States, has called on the Biden administration to ease the harsh oil sanctions imposed on Nicolas Maduro’s government.
Blasi warned that Venezuela could become another Cuba, with the United States being blamed for increasing authoritarianism and economic hardships in the socialist-run country. This marks a significant departure from the opposition’s previous “maximum pressure campaign,” which sought US support to force Maduro out of power.
The hardline approach’s failure led to a change in the opposition’s leadership in January, replacing the beleaguered former lawmaker Juan Guaidó as “interim president” with a more horizontal leadership structure comprising mostly exiled politicians. Blasi, 51, has been discussing the future of US sanctions with Democratic members of Congress, including Gregory Meeks, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. However, he does not claim to speak for the entire opposition Unity Platform, and many of his allies within the coalition remain opposed to granting concessions to Maduro without upfront commitments regarding next year’s presidential election.
The Biden administration has indicated its willingness to provide sanctions relief in exchange for specific steps by Maduro, such as not banning the opposition’s candidate in the upcoming primaries. While a license has been issued to US multinational Chevron, allowing for limited oil production in Venezuela on a trial basis, most of the sanctions inherited from the Trump administration remain in place. Blasi argues that the pace of sanctions relief is too slow, and that easing sanctions would offer crucial assistance to ordinary Venezuelans suffering from high inflation and shortages.
Blasi emphasizes that time is running out and urges the development of a coherent plan in which concessions are offered to the Venezuelan government in exchange for reciprocal actions. This would aim to create the best possible scenario for the 2024 elections. The Biden administration claims that it is open to providing targeted, time-limited sanctions relief, with the State Department stating that US policy aims to calibrate sanctions based on humanitarian needs, positive democratic outcomes, and close coordination with the Unity Platform.
However, Dinorah Figuera, who replaced Guaidó as the representative of the 2015 National Assembly, distanced herself from Blasi’s comments, saying they do not represent the opposition as a whole. She emphasized the importance of pluralism and consensus in moving forward.