US Eases Sanction Amid Venezuela Talks 11/27 09:18
Venezuela's government and its opposition on Saturday agreed to create a
U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor,
while the Biden administration eased some oil sanctions on the country in an
effort to boost the newly restarted talks between the sides.
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Venezuela's government and its opposition on Saturday
agreed to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education
programs for the poor, while the Biden administration eased some oil sanctions
on the country in an effort to boost the newly restarted talks between the
The agreement signed in Mexico City by representatives of President Nicols
Maduro and the opposition, including the faction backed by the United States
and led by Juan Guaid, marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations
meant to find a common path out of the South American country's complex crisis.
The U.S. government, in response, agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump
The broad terms of the agreement for the United Nations-managed social fund
were announced by the head of a group of Norwegian diplomats guiding the
Venezuelan resources held in the international financial system will be
directed to the fund, though neither side in the talks nor Norway's chief
facilitator, Dag Nylander, said whether the U.S. or European governments have
agreed to allow frozen assets to be funneled to the new mechanism.
"In line with UN norms and procedures, (the fund's) objective would be to
support the implementation of social protection measures for the Venezuelan
people," Nylander said. "The parties have identified a set of resources
belonging to the Venezuelan state frozen in the international financial system
to which it is possible to progressively access, understanding the need to
obtain the authorizations and approvals" from foreign institutions and
A U.N. report published earlier this year estimated humanitarian needs at
$795 million to help about 5.2 million people in Venezuela through health,
education, water and sanitation, food and other projects.
Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. ramped up economic sanctions against
Venezuela and granted Guaid authority to take control of bank accounts that
Maduro's government has in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other
Guaid declared himself Venezuela's interim president in January 2019,
arguing that his capacity as then-president of the country's National Assembly
allowed him to form a transitional government because Maduro had been
re-elected in a sham vote in late 2018. Dozens of countries, including the
U.S., Canada and Colombia, recognized him as Venezuela's legitimate leader.
European banks also hold Venezuelan frozen assets.
About 7 million people have left Venezuela amid a complex political and
humanitarian crisis. Three-quarters of those who remain in the country live on
less than $1.90 a day, an international measure for extreme poverty.
About $3 billion is expected to be progressively directed to the fund.
The dialogue formally began in September 2021, but Maduro's delegates walked
away from negotiations in October 2021 after businessman Alex Saab was
extradited on money laundering charges from Cape Verde to the U.S. Maduro
conditioned a resumption on the release of Saab.
The Treasury Department on Saturday announced its decision to allow
California-based Chevron to resume "limited" energy production in Venezuela
after years of sanctions that have dramatically curtailed oil and gas profits
that have flowed to Maduro's government.
The decision by the Biden administration is the latest step in the softening
of hostile relations between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments. It came weeks
after a major prisoner swap in which Venezuela freed seven imprisoned Americans
in exchange for the U.S. freeing two nephews of Maduro's wife. Maduro released
two other Americans in March.
Under the new policy, profits from the sale of energy would be directed to
paying down debt owed to Chevron, rather than providing profits to Venezuela's
state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., commonly known as PDVSA.
Treasury's move "brings added transparency to the Venezuelan oil sector,"
Chevron said in a statement. The company added that the decision "means Chevron
can now commercialize the oil that is currently being produced from the
company's Joint Venture assets. We are determined to remain a constructive
presence in the country and to continue supporting social investment programs
aimed at providing humanitarian relief."
A senior U.S. administration official, briefing reporters about the U.S.
action under the condition of anonymity, said that easing the sanctions was not
connected to the administration's efforts to boost global energy production in
the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and that the decision was not expected
to impact global energy prices.
The agreement over the social fund is part of a broad agenda that is
expected to advance in December, including the conditions for the presidential
elections that are supposed to take place in 2024, the release of political
prisoners and the withdrawal of decisions that bar many politicians from
running for office.
The fund is a tangible result from a process that many see with skepticism
after negotiations mediated by the international community in previous years
failed to bring the sides to an agreement.
David Smilde, senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America and
professor at Tulane University, said that after the long break in negotiations,
"it is up to the two sides to show the exhausted Venezuelan population that
they can actually address their needs and return the country to a functioning
"However, this should be seen not as the end point of the negotiations but
as a restart," Smilde said. "The more important issues of justice and democracy
are on the agenda for future meetings. Making progress will be difficult, but
both sides have much to gain by rising to the occasion."