After the lifting of certain restrictions targeting Cuba on Monday, it is the second Latin American opponent of the United States to benefit from such a boost.
Even if American officials speak of “coincidences”, the approach to the Summit of the Americas organized in June by President Joe Biden in Los Angeles may have something to do with it: Mexico threatens to boycott the meeting if Cuba, the Venezuela and Nicaragua are not invited and could therefore be sensitive to these relaxations of the American position.
Regarding Venezuela, the sanctions relief is “linked to an agreement by both sides to resume negotiations” in Mexico City to find a way out of the Venezuelan political crisis, which “they should announce very soon”, a senior official said. US official to reporters.
In the process, the Chavista government and the Venezuelan opposition met on Tuesday, after the interruption in October of the negotiation process they were conducting in Mexico.
The heads of the two delegations, Jorge Rodríguez, representative of President Nicolás Maduro, and opposition leader Gerardo Blyde wrote the same message on their Twitter accounts: “In a working meeting for future plans. To revive the spirit of Mexico,” along with a photo of them shaking hands.
“Venezuela aspires that these decisions of the United States pave the way for the absolute lifting of the illicit sanctions which affect all our people”, reacted the vice-president Delcy Rodriguez.
The senior American official previously clarified that this measure had been taken “at the request of the Venezuelan transitional government” of opponent Juan Guaido, recognized by the United States as the legitimate president of Venezuela.
A rare visit by US government envoys to the socialist president in March led to the release of two Americans detained in Venezuela and the promise of a resumption of dialogue with the opposition.
At the time, this trip fueled speculation about a possible breach of the Venezuelan oil embargo imposed by Washington in 2019 in the hope of ousting Nicolas Maduro.
The United States was indeed going around the world in search of hydrocarbons to compensate for the loss of Russian crude following the sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
– “Limited derogation” –
But Tuesday’s measures have no connection with a desire to lower oil prices, assured the American official.
This “sanctions relief” concerns above all a “limited exemption” granted to the American oil group Chevron within the framework of the embargo.
This company will be able to “negotiate the terms of potential future activities in Venezuela”, without however concluding a new agreement with the Venezuelan national company PDVSA, explained this official.
“Venezuela has verified and confirmed the information released that the United States of America has authorized American and European oil companies to negotiate and resume operations in Venezuela,” Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez tweeted. .
Ms. Rodriguez said she hopes that these decisions “pave the way for the complete lifting of the illegal sanctions that affect all of our people”.
For its part, the Unitary Platform, which brings together the main Venezuelan opposition parties, called in a press release for a date for the resumption of talks, specifying that it had not asked Washington to ease the sanctions. individual.
According to American media, Carlos Erik Malpica Flores, a former executive of PDVSA and nephew of the Venezuelan First Lady, must be removed from the blacklist of the American Treasury.
The senior American official insisted that the American policy with regard to Venezuela remained unchanged: the sanctions will be “lightened” in the event of advances towards democracy and “free” and “heavy” elections if the process derails.
This guarantee was not enough to reassure certain American elected officials on the front line in opposition to power in Caracas.
“President Biden claims to support democracy and human rights, but his foreign policy is built on seeking accommodation and granting concessions to dictators,” denounced Republican Senator from Florida Marco Rubio, whose state hosts the largest community of the Venezuelan diaspora in the United States.
“Making a handful of undeserved gestures for Maduro just to get his regime to promise to sit down at the negotiating table is a strategy doomed to failure,” his colleague Bob Menendez, a member of the Democratic Party like Joe Biden, railed.
These same senators had already denounced the day before the decision to lift a series of restrictions targeting Cuba.
This timid openness to the communist Caribbean island remains far from the historic one decided during his tenure at the White House by Barack Obama before being called into question by his Republican successor Donald Trump.