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US says it's ready to 'pause' sanctions relief for Venezuela unless further progress seen

Tan KW
Publish date: Sat, 02 Dec 2023, 07:15 AM
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WASHINGTON - The White House said on Friday it was prepared to "pause" sanctions relief for OPEC member Venezuela in coming days unless there is further progress on the release of Venezuelan political prisoners and "wrongfully detained" Americans.

Speaking after a deadline for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to meet certain commitments, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. welcomed an announcement on Thursday that opposition presidential candidates barred from public office would be able to appeal to Venezuela’s highest court.

But he said the Venezuelan government needed to do more or else Venezuela would risk a U.S. freeze on relaxed sanctions unveiled in mid-October in response to a deal between Maduro and the country’s opposition on holding a 2024 presidential election.

Any “snapback” of partially lifted U.S. sanctions would mark a major shift from President Joe Biden's new approach toward Venezuela.

In the most significant lifting of tough Trump-era sanctions, Washington issued a six-month general license authorizing U.S. transactions with Venezuela’s vital oil and gas sector and a second license authorizing operations of state gold mining company Minerven. It also removed a U.S. prohibition on secondary-market trading of Venezuelan sovereign bonds.

Washington had vowed to reverse that sanctions relief unless the Venezuelan government took steps by the end of November to release political prisoners and three Americans it considers unlawfully jailed, and also lift public-office bans on opposition candidates.

Thursday’s announcement by the Venezuelan government and opposition, which opened a path that could enable opposition politicians to run, appeared to satisfy one of Washington’s chief demands.

“It's welcome news,” Kirby said. “We are, however, deeply concerned about the lack of progress on the release of wrongfully detained U.S. citizens and Venezuelan political prisoners.”

“So we're going to continue to be actively engaged here in diplomatic efforts on those particular issues, and we're prepared to take action in the coming days to pause certain sanctions relief, unless further progress is made,” he added.

Under the appeals process, candidates can file petitions to the court between Dec. 1 and Dec. 15, according to the statement, shared on social media by Norway, an observer country at talks between the two sides.

The winner of the opposition's presidential primary, Maria Corina Machado, is among those barred from office.

 


  - Reuters

 

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