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Biden admin eases energy sanctions on Venezuela in potential blow to domestic producers: report

The Biden administration is moving to lift energy sanctions implemented by the Trump administration on Venezuela in exchange for freer elections.

The Biden administration is planning to ease existing Trump-era sanctions on the Venezuelan oil industry in exchange for the nation to hold more democratic elections in 2024, according to a new report.

The Venezuelan government led by socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro is expected to sign an agreement on Tuesday with U.S.-backed opposition leaders vowing to allow a freer election next year as part of the deal, according to the Washington Post, which cited multiple anonymous sources familiar with U.S.-Venezuela negotiations. American officials are expected to be in attendance for the signing that will take place in Barbados.

If the agreement is signed, the U.S. is expected to lift certain oil sanctions that have crippled the nation's energy industry. The actions may also include a license for Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the lead Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company, to resume business with American companies, according to the Post.

"The United States welcomes the announcement by Maduro representatives and the Unitary Platform to resume Venezuelan-led negotiations in Barbados," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement. "Along with likeminded partners and other friends of Venezuela, the United States will continue its efforts to unite the international community in support of the Venezuelan-led negotiation process."


The Norwegian embassy in Mexico confirmed in a statement that the Venezuelan government and its opposition had agreed to resume talks "with the objective of reaching a political agreement." Norway is helping to facilitate the negotiations.

"You won’t get everything you want, but you will make progress," Luis Florido, a former exiled opposition lawmaker, said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday, lauding the potential for freer elections and voting in 2024.

In 2019, the Trump administration imposed heavy sanctions on the nation's oil industry after a dispute arose between Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido over the 2018 presidential election. The U.S. government officially declared Guaido to be Venezuela's interim president.


As a result of the sanctions, crude oil imports from Venezuela sharply dropped from 634,000 barrels per day in January 2019 to 11,000 barrels per day in May 2019 and zero barrels per day in June 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration. The U.S. had imported 586,000 barrels of oil per day from the country in 2018.

But the Biden administration has taken steps to pave the way for the sanctions to be eased and for U.S.-Venezuela oil trade to continue. In response to a humanitarian agreement from Venezuela in November, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control announced it would grant a license to drill in Venezuela to U.S. energy firm Chevron.

At the same time, President Biden has taken steps since taking office to curb U.S. oil and gas production and fulfill his campaign promise to "end fossil fuel" as part of his broader climate agenda. For example, he has curbed oil and gas lease sales on federal lands and waters, revoked pipeline permits and consistently appointed officials across his administration who back green energy over traditional fossil fuels.

"Joe Biden’s energy policies put America last. On day one, he killed the Keystone XL pipeline. In week one, he blocked new federal oil and natural gas leasing," said Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member John Barrasso, R-Wyo., in a statement. "By year two, he sold off 40 percent of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve – taking it to its lowest level in forty years. Meanwhile, he eased sanctions on Iran, which funds terrorism across the Middle East."

"Now with Israel under attack, Biden is desperate for anything to mask the consequences of his reckless policies," he continued. "His latest gimmick is to ease sanctions on Nicolas Maduro’s brutal regime in Venezuela. America should never beg for oil from socialist dictators or terrorists. For the sake of our energy workers and our allies, Joe Biden must work with us to unleash American energy."


The White House didn't respond to a request for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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