Biden eases sanctions on Venezuela as talks resume with opposition

By ZEKE MILLER, AP White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration eased some oil sanctions on Venezuela on Saturday in a bid to support newly resumed negotiations between President Nicol├ís Maduro’s administration and its opposition.

Treasury Department allows Chevron to resume “limited” energy production in Venezuela after years of sanctions that have dramatically cut oil and gas profits flowing to Maduro’s government. Earlier this year, the Treasury Department again allowed California-based Chevron and other US companies to perform basic maintenance on wells it operates jointly with state oil giant PDVSA.

Under the new policy, profits from the sale of energy would be used to pay off debts owed to Chevron, rather than directing profits to PDVSA.

Talks between the Maduro government and the Unitary Platform resumed on Saturday in Mexico City after a break of more than a year. It remains to be seen whether they will take a different tack than previous rounds of talks, which have failed to break the political deadlock in the country.

A senior US government official who briefed reporters on the US action on condition of anonymity said the easing of sanctions was not linked to the government’s efforts to boost global energy production after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and that the decision was not expected to affect global energy prices.

The official said the US would closely monitor Maduro’s involvement in the talks and reserved the right to re-impose tougher sanctions or relax them further depending on how the negotiations progressed.

“If Maduro tries again to use these negotiations to buy time to further entrench his criminal dictatorship, the United States and our international partners must withdraw the full force of our sanctions that brought his regime to the negotiating table in the first place.” , Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

Chevron said the license granted by the US means the company “can now commercialize the oil it is currently producing” through the joint venture. “We are determined to remain a constructive presence in the country and continue to support social investment programs aimed at providing humanitarian assistance.”