Biden to ease Venezuela sanctions one day after Cuba rules lift

The Biden administration on Tuesday took a step toward easing sanctions against Venezuela’s socialist government — just one day after lifting financial, travel and migration rules for Cuba.

The US will allow Chevron to discuss future work with state-owned Venezuelan oil company PDVSA and lift sanctions against Carlos Malpica-Flores, a former PDVSA executive and relative of Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro.

Biden administration officials said on a White House-organized call that the changes are relatively minor and were made at the request of Venezuelan opposition leaders who comprise a shadow government that is in talks with Maduro.

“The Treasury, with the guidance from the State Department, issued a narrow license authorizing Chevron to negotiate the terms of the potential future activities in Venezuela,” an official said. “It does not allow entry into any agreement with PDVSA or any other activity involving PDVSA or Venezuela’s oil sector. So fundamentally, what they’re doing is just allowed to talk.”

The official added, “Very clearly, none of these alleviations of pressure would lead to an increase in revenue for the regime. It’s basically just the license for Chevron to speak.”

The official said that regarding Venezuela, “there’s one other action that will become public” on Tuesday — an apparent reference to The Associated Press’s reporting on the rollback of sanctions against Malpica-Flores.

The AP reported that the US is keeping other Venezuela sanctions in place, including against Venezuela’s Central Bank.

Maduro, the inheritor of predecessor Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution, has clung to power despite hyperinflation, rampant violent crime and an exodus of nearly 6 million people since 2015.

The US said the changes came at the request of Venezuelan opposition leaders.
AFP via Getty Images

The Venezuelan leader was indicted in 2020 on US charges for alleged drug trafficking — meaning that if he ever leaves office, he could serve time in US prisons, as did former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who was convicted of drug charges in 1992 by a Florida jury.

The US softened its stance on Venezuela just one day after significantly easing policies toward fellow socialist state Cuba, whose government harshly repressed large anti-government protests last year.

For Cuba, the US lifted a $1,000-per-quarter remittance cap and allowed for direct US investment for the first time since 1960. The US also will restart a family reunification program for 20,000 Cubans to move to the US each year, which the Trump administration suspended in 2017, and resume “educational” US group travel to the island that was banned in 2019.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted Monday, “The regime in #Cuba threatened [President] Biden with mass migration and have sympathizers inside the administration and the result is today we see the first steps back to the failed Obama policies on Cuba.”

Nicaragua’s leftist government has allowed Cuban citizens to visit without a visa since November, and many Cubans are using the Central American nation as a starting point to reach the US-Mexico border, where COVID-19 deportation policies are scheduled to end next week.

The White House on Tuesday took a step toward easing sanctions against Venezuela's socialist government.
The US will allow Chevron to discuss future work with the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA.
EPA/Henry Chirinos

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also slammed the Cuba reforms, saying he was “dismayed” by the relaxed travel rules, which he said would increase tourism to the benefit of the Cuban government.

The Biden administration reforms could bear on domestic US politics. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump gained Hispanic support by warning that Democrats would turn the US into a large-scale version of Venezuela. Trump’s hardline stance helped him win Florida by a surprisingly large margin.

With Post wires

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