Negotiations Fail to Renew Venezuela Sanctions Relief License

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(S&P Global, 17.Apr.2024) — A few hours before the expiration of a temporary oil and gas sanctions relief license, the governments of Venezuela and the United States continue to negotiate without success its renewal under the requirement of holding competitive presidential elections on July 28, Venezuelan officials said.

“Today at noon there was a videoconference, Jorge Rodríguez was there, I am not going to say who was there for them (United States). But they continue blackmailing, that they are going to remove license 44,” said Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in his weekly program on April 15.

Jorge Rodriguez, who is the president of the National Assembly, has been the Maduro government’s representative in negotiations with the Venezuelan opposition.

General License No. 44 of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which authorizes transactions involving the state-owner PDVSA for the production, extraction, sale and export of oil or gas from Venezuela, was issued on October 18 for six months, following the agreement signed in Barbados between the government of Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan opposition to hold presidential elections in the second half of 2024, to allow the participation of all candidates, including those disqualified, and to release political prisoners.

According to Maduro, in addition to the meeting in Barbados, “there were more than nine meetings: six meetings in Qatar, with the good offices of the Emir of Qatar, and three meetings in Milan”.

“We have made claims within the framework of those conversations, but on the outside the agreement was reached to achieve the release of Alex Saab, on December 20. It was an exchange,” Maduro revealed.

Saab, accused of money laundering, was exchanged for 10 American prisoners in Venezuela, who were released in December.

Maduro also confirmed two additional meetings in Mexico with representatives of the US government at the beginning of April.

“They want Venezuela to live on licenses that they (the United States) give”, Maduro added.

“They never fulfilled a single comma of the signed agreement, never. By now, the United States signed an agreement and should have lifted all sanctions on Venezuela,” Maduro said.

The details of this agreement alluded to by Maduro are not known because they are “private and confidential”.

“I will never close the door to dialogue. But I tell them: if you want, I want. If you don’t want to, I don’t want to,” Maduro said as a challenge to the US president Joe Biden.

“We are going to move forward with or without a license,” Maduro said.

“We have made very clear that if Maduro and his representatives did not fully implement their agreements under the Barbados agreement, we would reimpose sanctions, and I would just say stay tuned,” United States State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said April 16, who refused to discuss any meetings between US officials and Maduro’s representatives.

“He has upheld certain aspects of the Barbados agreement, including setting an election timetable and inviting international observation missions,” Miller said. “At the same time, you’ve seen him block candidates from the opposition from the ballot. Those are things that we take very seriously. I don’t want to make any announcements ahead of their time, but stay tuned over the next few days to see what more we will have to say in advance of this deadline.”

Maria Corina Machado, a 56-year-old engineer, elected in an Oct. 22 election as the sole opposition candidate, was disqualified from participating in the July presidential elections. Machado’s designated replacement, Professor Corina Yoris, was also unable to register her candidacy.

The Venezuelan opposition, mostly grouped in the so-called Unitary Platform, continues unsuccessfully negotiating with other opposition sectors, among them Manuel Rosales, governor of the state of Zulia and candidate for the Un Nuevo Tiempo party, in search of a single candidacy to face Nicolas Maduro.

“These are decisive hours,” said Maria Corina in an interview broadcast by the international channel NTN24 on April 15.

This April 20 expires the period for replacing presidential candidates, according to the schedule of the National Electoral Council, an organization controlled by Maduro.

In addition to Nicolas Maduro for the PSUV party, legalized political organizations registered 12 presidential candidates to compete for the presidency of the South American country.


By Kate Winston and Mery Mogollon

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