Biden Concedes Defeat, Restores Sanctions on Venezuelan Oil

Biden Oil
Mint Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden reinstated oil and gas sanctions on Venezuela on Thursday, a recognition that lifting the sanctions did nothing to entice the socialist regime to host a free and fair election.

The Biden administration lifted some of the strictest U.S. sanctions on dictator Nicolás Maduro’s regime last year as part of a dialogue in which Maduro agreed to host a presidential election sometime in 2024. The deal collapsed rapidly; Maduro scrapped it in October and launched a new wave of violence against anti-socialist dissidents, likely bankrolled by new oil profits.

The Biden sanctions relief lasted for six months and expired on April 18 at 12:01 a.m.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) informed on Wednesday that it had issued a new license granting U.S. companies a 45-day time frame to wind down operations and businesses involving the Venezuelan state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), unless they hold a specific license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

“After a careful review of the current situation in Venezuela, the United States determined Nicolas Maduro and his representatives have not fully met the commitments made under the electoral roadmap agreement, which was signed by Maduro representatives and the opposition in Barbados in October 2023,”  a Department of State statement explained. “Therefore, General License 44, which authorizes transactions related to oil or gas sector operations in Venezuela, will expire at 12:01 AM on April 18.”

The statement continued:

Despite delivering on some of the commitments made under the Barbados electoral roadmap, we are concerned that Maduro and his representatives prevented the democratic opposition from registering the candidate of their choice, harassed and intimidated political opponents, and unjustly detained numerous political actors and members of civil society.  We again call on Maduro to allow all candidates and parties to participate in the electoral process and release all political prisoners without restrictions or delay.

Last year, representatives of the Maduro regime and the Venezuelan opposition conducted a series of negotiations in Barbados that led to an electoral agreement signed in October.

The document, known as the “Barbados Agreements,” was signed by both parties under the observation of the Biden administration and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Blinken spent years promoting the idea of having Nicolás Maduro — a socialist dictator who has clung to power through several rounds of fraudulent elections — allow Venezuela to hold a “free and fair” election.

The Maduro regime agreed within the framework of the Barbados Agreements to a series of vague promises allegedly meant to set the stage for a “free and fair” presidential election sometime during the second half of 2024. Some of the steps included lifting bans on opposition candidates and other politicians that would allow them to run in the hypothetical “free and fair” electoral event.

In exchange, U.S. President Biden rewarded the Maduro regime with the recently expired oil and gas sanctions relief package. The deal allowed the Maduro regime to once again freely sell its oil in U.S. and International markets, opening new revenue streams for the authoritarian regime.

The sanctions relief package temporarily lifted U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela’s oil industry in 2019 by former President Donald Trump as a response to the Maduro regime’s ongoing human rights violations against its own people.

Over the past six months, the Maduro regime benefited from President Biden’s sanctions relief package, experiencing a sustained surge in its oil output and the signing of new oil agreements with China, India, and other countries. European countries such as Spain and France reactivated its joint oil ventures with the South American nation, opening possible new revenue streams for the cash-starved authoritarian regime that, after more than two decades of socialist mismanagement, had pushed Venezuela’s oil industry to the brink of complete ruin.

While President Biden’s sanctions relief package yielded monetary benefits for the Maduro regime, it did not lead to the Maduro regime allowing a free election in the country. Instead, the socialist regime upheld its ban on opposition frontrunner María Corina Machado, preventing her from running in the upcoming election, and doubled down on its persecution of political dissidents. Maduro ultimately invalidated the entire Barbados Agreement, replacing it with a tailor-made agreement drafted by the regime’s socialist lawmakers that set the stage for an upcoming sham presidential election on July 28, 2024.

Several members of Machado’s Vente Venezuela, the country’s only mainstream center-right party, have been arrested by the Maduro regime over the past months as part of crackdown operations known as “Bolivarian Fury.” The men and women arrested by the crackdown stand accused by the ruling socialists of allegedly plotting to murder dictator Nicolás Maduro and other members of his regime.

Machado, after being unable to register her candidacy, designated 80-year-old academic Corina Yoris as her substitute. Yoris, like Machado, was not allowed by the Venezuelan electoral authorities to register as a candidate. Venezuela’s National Electoral Center (CNE) however, did allow regime-approved candidates and “opposition” collaborationist politicians to freely sign up and run against Maduro for the upcoming sham election.

The United Nations Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela warned in its latest March 2024 report that the Maduro regime had noticeably ramped up its violent repression of dissidents following Biden’s sanctions relief gift.

Jorge Rodríguez, the head of the Venezuelan National Assembly and the Maduro regime’s designated top negotiator, lashed out at the United States’ reinstatement of the oil and gas sanctions on Wednesday evening as an “harmful action” against the socialist regime. He denied that the Barbados Agreements would require the lifting of Machado’s ban.

Rodríguez said that, despite the reinstatement of the oil sanctions, the Maduro regime is willing to maintain conversations with U.S. representatives, echoing Nicolás Maduro’s “English”- language message issued to President Biden on Monday evening.

“I tell the negotiators to tell President Biden the following message,” Maduro said in Spanish, adding in English: “I you want I want, I you to want I do want.”

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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