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The United States has decided to scale back on its sanctions relief measures for Venezuela, as announced by the State Department on Tuesday. This decision comes in response to the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s recent affirmation of a ban on a key opposition presidential candidate.
The State Department highlighted that these actions taken by President Nicolás Maduro’s government, including the arrest of democratic opposition members and disqualification of presidential contenders, are in direct contradiction to the electoral reform agreement signed in Barbados in October.
Under this agreement, the Biden administration had initially relaxed sanctions related to Venezuelan oil, gas, and gold sectors in exchange for commitments to electoral reforms, including the presence of international election monitors. The US saw this accord as vital to restoring democracy and fair elections in Venezuela.
Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the State Department, stated that unless there is significant progress in dialogue between Maduro and the Unitary Platform, the US will not renew General License 44, which benefits the Venezuelan oil and gas industry, after its expiration on April 18. Additionally, General License 43, permitting transactions with Minerven, Venezuela’s state-owned gold mining company, will be revoked, with US companies required to cease relevant transactions by February 13.
The action by the US follows the Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal of Justice upholding a ban on Maria Corina Machado’s presidential candidacy. Machado, a staunch opponent of Maduro’s regime and primary election winner for the Unitary Platform, was banned from running for office for 15 years shortly after entering the race in June, despite winning over 90% of the votes in the primary.
Undeterred by the court’s decision, Machado vowed to continue her presidential campaign, labeling the ruling as “judicial criminality” and asserting that the people would not accept the denial of their decision.