Biden To Renew Venezuela Oil Sanctions If Maduro Continues Barring US-Backed Oppo Candidate

The Biden administration can't decide on what to do in Venezuela, though as we've noted the priority has clearly thus far been about dropping the pretense that the US actually cares for democracy in pursuit of finding a favorable price at which to stabilize oil during an election year.

The White House now says it plans to restore sanctions on Venezuela's energy sector, but only if the Maduro government upholds the ban on prominent opposition candidate María Corina Machado. Buying more time, kicking that can a bit further...

Just days ago on Friday, the country's supreme court upheld a ruling that previously saw her banned from the ballot, which was a reaction by authorities to her open support of US sanctions against Caracas and for allegations of corruption. In a sense, she's the Juan Guaidó back-up plan.

Going into this year's Venezuelan presidential election, expected for the latter half of 2024, Maduro officials have accused Machado of doing the bidding of enemy intelligence agencies, namely the CIA

What is clear is that she has indeed long been part of the political opposition which has worked closely with US government groups. She has even made statements calling for the overthrow of the Maduro government such as, "I am saying very clearly that this regime is only going to leave when faced with the real, severe, and imminent threat of an international coalition with humanitarian goals."

As for Biden's 'playbook' and options when it comes to potentially seeing through the "deal" it struck with Maduro (Biden's easing of oil sanctions was supposed to be based on President Nicolás Maduro agreeing to significant democratic reform and an even playing field in the 2024 election), Bloomberg newly reports on Monday:

The US will allow a six-month suspension on sanctions to expire in April if opposition candidate María Corina Machado is barred from running, and is also considering additional measures, according to the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.

To some degree, we see the remnant blowback effects of past US policy (and widely known intelligence support for the Venezuelan opposition) on current policy, and Biden's needing to salvage this deal based on accessing Venezuelan oil...

George W. Bush welcoming Machado to the Oval Office on 31 May 2005, via Wiki Commons

As of October, the US had already granted Caracas a license authorizing oil and gas sector transactions as a "good will gesture" but with the key caveat being that Maduro would stick to an agreed-up reform roadmap. 

However, "The US Treasury Department said at the time that the license would be renewed only if Maduro’s government stuck to an agreed electoral roadmap and met other commitments regarding people who were wrongfully detained." But so far he doesn't seem so willing to be "brought in from the cold". 

For now, Bloomberg notes the game plan is just about buying time, and yet the Maduro side seems to be in the driver's seat. "Waiting until April to restore the sanctions would give time for the US to negotiate with the Maduro regime and the opposition to find a way to get Machado on the ballot," the report says.

Biden admin hypocrisy (and US foreign policy hypocrisy in general) is increasingly being exposed for all to see as he is stuck between a rock of supporting an authoritarian dictator supposedly hell-bent on destroying democracy and a hard-place of rising oil prices (if sanctions are reinstated 200-300k less barrels of supply) and rising gasoline prices - none of which of course is an election winner.

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