US to reimpose oil sanctions on Venezuela: officials

US to reimpose oil sanctions on Venezuela: officials

A tanker travels off the coast of Venezuela, where authorities insist its oil sector would keep going regardless of whether the United States imposes sanctions
A tanker travels off the coast of Venezuela, where authorities insist its oil sector would keep going regardless of whether the United States imposes sanctions. Photo: Gustavo GRANADO / AFP/File
Source: AFP

The United States is to snap back sanctions on Venezuela's crucial oil industry after President Nicolas Maduro's government continued its "repression" of opponents, US officials said Wednesday.

Caracas had "fallen short" on key areas ahead of an April 18 deadline set by Washington for progress after Maduro's opponents were not allowed to run against him in upcoming elections, senior administration officials said.

The US suspended some sanctions after Maduro's government and the opposition agreed in Barbados last October to hold a free and fair vote in 2024 with international observers present.

"Although the Venezuelan authorities have met some key commitments, they've also fallen short in several areas," a senior Biden administration said on condition of anonymity.

"The areas in which they've fallen short include... what we see as a continuing pattern of harassment and repression against opposition figures," the official added.

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Washington was "particularly concerned" by the fact that Venezuela had "blocked" Maduro's main opponent, Maria Corina Machado, from running in elections due on July 28.

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Companies would have a "winding down" period until May 31 to comply with the sanctions, officials said.

The Venezuelan government meanwhile vowed its oil sector would keep going regardless of US policy.

"We will not stop, with or without a licence," Petroleum Minister Pedro Tellechea told reporters on Wednesday ahead of Washington's announcement.

Last year's deal allowed US energy giant Chevron to resume limited crude oil extraction in Venezuela.

Crushing sanctions

But since the agreement was struck, state institutions loyal to the regime have disqualified Maduro's main challenger Machado -- the favorite according to polls -- and a proxy, leaving the opposition disjointed ahead of the election.

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Maduro will be seeking a third six-year term after 11 years in office marked by sanctions, economic collapse and accusations of widespread repression.

Washington has already reimposed sanctions in the gold mining sector.

On Wednesday, Tellechea said Venezuela would not "stop producing, marketing, exploiting our reserves," adding that "transnational corporations will continue to come."

Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world but production has plummeted after years of mismanagement and crushing sanctions.

Dozens of countries including the United States rejected the results of 2018 elections won by Maduro and boycotted by the opposition.

Most Western and Latin American countries switched recognition to then opposition leader Juan Guaido.

But years of sanctions and other pressure failed to dislodge Maduro, who enjoys support from a political patronage system, the military and from Cuba, Russia and China.

The Biden administration, after initially keeping the sanctions approach of his predecessor Donald Trump, shifted gears.

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In November Washington gave a green light to Chevron to operate in Venezuela and, just before Christmas, Venezuela freed 10 detained Americans in a swap with the United States which released a Maduro confidante.

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Source: AFP

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