The United States has reactivated sanctions against Venezuelan mining following the disqualification of opposition candidate Maria Corina Machado by Venezuela. Late yesterday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced the reinstatement of sanctions against the Venezuelan General Mining Company. It has set a deadline of February 13 for companies engaged in transactions with the state-run mining entity to conclude their operations.
The Barbados Agreements, signed just over three months ago between the Venezuelan government and the opposition party, now appear to be jeopardized. This pact, which aimed to facilitate the organization and conduct of free and democratic presidential elections within the year, led to the lifting of some international sanctions. Consequently, it allowed for the trade of Venezuelan oil, gas, and gold, providing a much-needed boost to the beleaguered economy of the South American nation.
April deadline for return of sanctions
Similarly, the U.S. has set an April deadline for Venezuela to reinstate the candidacy of Maria Corina Machado, warning that failure to do so could lead to the reactivation of the full range of sanctions, impacting Venezuelan oil and gas sectors. Machado has garnered an exceptional level of support, achieving a rare degree of unanimity among the Venezuelan opposition for her presidential candidacy.
Despite the recent ratification of her disqualification by the Venezuelan justice system, which resulted in the suspension of her candidacy, opposition leader Maria Corina Machado has affirmed her commitment to continue pursuing the presidency. This development adds another layer of complexity to the evolving political landscape in Venezuela.
The reinstatement of partial sanctions serves as a pressure tactic, with the U.S. maintaining the possibility of fully reimposing them on the Venezuelan government. White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby stated, “We have options at our disposal. I’m not going to advance any of them at this point, but we certainly have options with respect to sanctions and those kinds of things that we can take. You have until April.”
Collaboration agreements up in the air
This development has also led to the suspension of collaborative agreements between the United States and Venezuela. Notably, these agreements had facilitated the resumption of flights from the U.S. to Caracas, primarily for the purpose of deporting Venezuelan nationals back to their country.
One of the most significant U.S. concessions involved the contentious return of Colombian businessman Alex Saab to Venezuela. Saab, who faced accusations in the United States of money laundering and acting as a frontman for Nicolas Maduro, currently enjoys freedom in Venezuela and has been appointed to a new public office.
The relaxation of sanctions, which took effect in mid-October, contributed to a reduction in the illicit sale of Venezuelan crude oil on international markets. However, this trend may reverse if the full range of sanctions is reinstated in the upcoming months.
In an effort to restore the path of collaboration, the Biden administration has called for a ‘review’ of the judicial decision that confirmed the disqualification of Maria Corina Machado.
Venezuela refuses to review disqualification
Jorge Rodriguez, President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, has responded to the U.S. request concerning Maria Corina Machado’s disqualification. Rodriguez ruled out any possibility of revising the decision. However, he also declared that Venezuela would make ‘a new attempt’ to uphold the Barbados political agreement, though details of this endeavor were not specified.
Simultaneously, a representative of Nicolas Maduro’s government warned that if the sanctions are fully reinstated, Venezuela’s response will be “severe, reciprocal, and energetic”. Rodriguez urged the U.S. government to refrain from intervening in “matters that solely concern Venezuelans.”
“We are very attentive to the actions taken in the coming days that may be considered aggressive towards the right of this country to live in peace, to progress and to the lifting of all unilateral coercive measures (…) If there is any aggressive action, our response will be severe, reciprocal and energetic,” the head of the Venezuelan legislative branch emphasized.