Latin America
Venezuela’s Opposition and Government Reach Election Agreement: US Contemplates Sanctions Relief

Venezuela’s government and opposition have agreed to electoral guarantees for the 2024 presidential elections, potentially allowing US sanctions relief. The elections will take place in the second half of next year, and international observers, including the European Union and United Nations, will oversee the vote.

The US is prepared to ease oil-related sanctions on Venezuela if President Nicolas Maduro has given enough ground to the opposition. President Joe Biden’s administration had previously lifted some punitive measures in exchange for democratic concessions from Maduro. However, it is unclear how soon the US might act or how far it could go with sanctions relief.

A joint statement from the US, EU, Britain, and Canada welcomed the Venezuelan-led political agreement, calling it a necessary step toward the “restoration of democracy in Venezuela.” However, the statement also reiterated calls for the release of political prisoners, independence of the electoral process, freedom of expression, and respect for human rights.

The Biden administration is considering easing oil sanctions on Venezuela, marking a shift away from Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the socialist-led country. However, US policy changes could be reversed if Maduro fails to meet his election commitments, as oil revenues are crucial to Venezuela’s economy. The talks between the two sides in Barbados, brokered by Norway, aim to provide a way out of Venezuela’s political and economic crisis.

The deal allows each side to choose its 2024 candidate according to its internal rules but does not reverse bans on opposition figures, including Maria Corina Machado, that prevent them from holding office. The opposition has argued that the bans are unlawful and Washington has rejected any roadblocks to opposition candidates.

The opposition has shied away from discussing what could happen if Machado wins the primary but cannot register for the general election. It remains unclear whether the opposition would accept Machado choosing another candidate to run in her stead.

Venezuela’s President Maduro is set to run for re-election but has not yet officially announced his candidacy. The US imposed sanctions on Venezuela in 2018 after a sham 2018 election, and since 2019, PDVSA has been banned from exporting oil to its markets. The agreement also includes protecting Houston-based oil refiner Citgo Petroleum, whose shares will be auctioned to pay creditors.

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