The easing of sanctions comes after the Venezuelan government and opposition signed an agreement to establish a UN-mandated fund.
The Biden administration eased some oil sanctions against Venezuela on Saturday after Nicolas Maduro’s government and the opposition signed a broad “social agreement” to establish a UN-administered fund to provide humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people.
The agreement signed in Mexico City on Saturday by representatives of President Maduro and the opposition – including the US-backed faction and led by Juan Guaido – marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations designed to find a common way out. the South American country’s complex crisis.
The US Treasury Department said the deal marks “significant steps in the right direction to restore democracy in Venezuela” and responded by issuing a license to Chevron to resume limited oil exploration operations in Venezuela.
The permit will remain in effect for six months while the Biden administration assesses whether Maduro’s government is meeting commitments in the accord, the Treasury Department said.
The relaxation of restrictions on Chevron’s operations in Venezuela, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, would allow the country to re-enter global oil markets.
International efforts to resolve the Venezuelan crisis have gained momentum since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the pressure it has placed on global energy supplies.
A joint statement by Canada, the US, the UK and the European Union pledged “willingness to review sanctions” against Venezuela, but demanded it release political prisoners, respect freedom of the press and the independence of the judiciary and electoral bodies would guarantee.
The powerful Democratic chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, said the Biden administration needs to work slowly.
“If Maduro tries again to use these negotiations to buy time to further consolidate his criminal dictatorship, the United States and our international partners must reverse the full force of our sanctions that brought his regime to the negotiating table in the first place,” he said. he. said.
‘Optimism ahead of the talks’
Al Jazeera’s Manuel Rapalo, reporting from Mexico City, said there was optimism the talks will succeed this time.
“It has been more than a year since the Venezuelan government and the opposition sat at the negotiating table. And one of the reasons why there is so much optimism leading up to this round of talks is precisely that the goals and rewards were outlined well before the negotiations,” Rapalo said.
“The goal, of course, is to solve the ongoing economic and political crisis in Venezuela. For Nicolas Maduro’s government, this would mean committing to free and fair elections in the country. The reward for his government is the relaxation of crippling sanctions,” he added.
Norwegian mediator Dag Nylander hailed the agreement as a “historic milestone”, even though the crisis in the country could only be resolved by Venezuelans themselves.
“The parties have identified a series of resources belonging to the Venezuelan state, frozen in the international financial system, that can be gradually accessed,” he said.
The funds are intended to help stabilize the country’s power grid, improve education infrastructure and mitigate the effects of this year’s deadly rainfall and flooding.
A UN report published earlier this year estimated the humanitarian needs at $795 million to help about 5.2 million people in Venezuela through healthcare, education, water and sanitation, food and other projects.
Under President Donald Trump, the US stepped up economic sanctions against Venezuela and granted opposition leader Juan Guaido the authority to take over the Maduro government’s bank accounts at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or other US-insured banks.
Guaido declared himself interim president of Venezuela in January 2019, arguing that his capacity as then president of the country’s National Assembly allowed him to form a transitional government because Maduro had been re-elected in a sham vote in late 2018.
Dozens of countries, including the US, Canada and Colombia, recognized him as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. European banks also hold frozen Venezuelan assets.
About seven million people have left Venezuela amid a complex political and humanitarian crisis. Three-quarters of those who remain in the country live on less than $1.90 a day, an international benchmark for extreme poverty.