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LATIN AMERICA | 20-04-2022 05:59

US and Venezuela should restart talks to ease oil sanctions, group says

Group of Venezuelan civil society leaders, economists and analysts call on the United States, Nicolás Maduro’s administration and opposition to restart political talks.

A group of Venezuelan civil society leaders, economists and analysts have called on the United States, President Nicolás Maduro’s administration and the opposition to restart political talks in order to ease oil sanctions that would alleviate the humanitarian crisis.

In a letter addressed to US President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ambassador to Venezuela James Story, the group asked for the US government and lawmakers to overcome “domestic political pressures” they say have hindered the advance of negotiations with Maduro. They also called for agreements that allow for the return of Western oil companies and other private firms to recover Venezuela’s oil sector and contribute to energy security in the hemisphere.

Signees include former head of the Fedecamaras business chamber Ricardo Cusanno, political analysts Michael Penfold and Luis Vicente León, and economists José Guerra, José Manuel Puente, Francisco Rodríguez and Luis Oliveros.

“Let’s face it: the maximum pressure policy and economic sanctions against Venezuela did not achieve their goals,” the group said in the letter, released Thursday. “While sanctions are not the root of Venezuela’s humanitarian emergency, they have gravely worsened conditions for the average Venezuelan.”

A rare meeting between Maduro and high-ranking US officials in Caracas last month prompted strong bipartisan pushback on speculation that sanction relief was on the table to free up oil supplies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

While the United States insisted the meeting was mostly focusing on freeing several political prisoners being held in Caracas, the Venezuelan opposition led by Juan Guaidó also spoke out against the possibility of sanctions relief without “concrete steps” toward a return to democracy in the South American country.

The group’s stated intention is to promote Venezuela’s return to global oil markets through a design that guarantees that the income would be used to combat widespread poverty. 

The letter also calls on Maduro’s administration to return to the negotiating table in good faith with the opposition and to seek political and electoral agreements, not just economic ones. 

The opposition should “unify around basic and realistic principles that support potential agreements,” according to the letter. “We have encouraged the opposition not be held hostage by extreme positions that only prolong the painful status quo.” 

by Nicolle Yapur & Andreina Itriago Acosta, Bloomberg

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