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US reimposes oil ban on Venezuela, ending 6-month reprieve

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-04-18 04:28

Cars drive past a billboard reading "Sanction June 2017 requested by the opposition. US blocks funds, Venezuela can't import insulin" in Caracas, Venezuela on April 17. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON -- The United States will not renew a license giving temporary permit to oil and gas production in Venezuela because it has seen not enough sign that the Venezuelan government is willing to ensure an inclusive and competitive presidential election in the country later this year, senior administration officials said Wednesday.

According to the officials, who briefed reporters on the decision during a press call, Washington will let General License 44 expire naturally on Thursday. The license was issued by the Treasury Department in October to encourage Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government to fully implement an agreement it reached with the opposition Unitary Platform in Barbados that would allow all opposition candidates to run for president.

In the months that followed the issuance of the license, the Maduro government prohibited Maria Corina Machado, the country's main opposition leader, from registering as a candidate in the election. When Machado named her substitute, college professor Corina Yoris, in late March, the government barred her from running as well, the officials said.

These actions, one of the officials on the press call said, made the United States conclude that the Venezuelan government has not followed through with one of the most critical commitments in the Barbados Agreement.

The official, nevertheless, acknowledged that the Venezuelan government honored "certain aspects of the Barbados Agreement with respect to beginning to update the electoral registry, asserting a process to allow international election observation and establishing an electoral timeline."

Another official at the call said that the Treasury Department will, by issuing General License 44 A in replacement of General License 44 on Wednesday, provide a grace period and give companies currently having business ties with Venezuela's oil and gas sector until May 31 to wind down their remaining activities.

"Any new activity that was previously covered by General License 44 will no longer be allowed," the official added.

What's worth notice is the fact that the Biden administration did not revoke a license it granted to Chevron Corporation in November 2022. That license, known as General License 41, authorized the US oil giant to resume limited extraction operations in Venezuela. That the license is still valid means Chevron's businesses in Venezuela will continue to be allowed.

In explanation, one official tried to differentiate the two cases, saying that the Chevron license "predated" General License 44 "for a period of time" and successfully led to the Maduro government living up to "a base-level commitment to engage in talks" with the opposition in Barbados.

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