U.S. lifts some Venezuela sanctions
Oct. 19, 2023
The United States partially lifted sanctions against Venezuela’s Maduro government, yesterday. The announcement follows a deal on Tuesday between the Maduro administration and a political opposition alliance, aimed at holding freer presidential elections in the latter half of 2024, reports the Miami Herald.
Venezuela’s government released five political prisoners yesterday, following the announcement including Rolando Carreño and Juan Requesens. (Efecto Cocuyo) Human rights groups celebrated the release, and say there are 273 political detainees in Venezuela. (Efecto Cocuyo)
The announcement also coincided with the resumption of U.S. deportation flights to Venezuela, notes Luz Mely Reyes.
Yesterday the first flight landed in Caracas, under a new Biden administration initiative, part of its tougher approach to border enforcement, reports Reuters. It is “unclear if the Biden’s administration’s promise of sanctions relief also included Mr. Maduro agreeing to accept Venezuelans deported back to his country,” reports the New York Times. Diplomatic tensions between Caracas and Washington made it nearly impossible for U.S. immigration authorities to return Venezuelans as deportees, even as tens of thousands per month began arriving at the U.S. southern border, reports the Washington Post.
The U.S. Biden administration said, yesterday, it would grant a six-month general license temporarily authorizing transactions involving the oil and gas sector in Venezuela, and a second general license authorizing operations of state-run Minerven, a previously sanctioned gold mining enterprise that had been trading in the black market. The U.S. also lifted a trading ban on certain Venezuelan sovereign bonds and debt and equity belonging to the state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, PDVSA.
The changes “represents a significant financial boost” for Maduro, particularly the PDVSA changes, reports the Economist. “The biggest rollback of Trump-era economic restrictions on the country underscores U.S. efforts to bolster global oil and gas supplies,” according to Axios.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Maduro has until the end of November to begin lifting bans on opposition presidential candidates and start releasing political prisoners and "wrongfully detained" U.S. citizens. The sanctions could be reinstated of there is no concrete action on these issues, reports Reuters. (See yesterday’s post.)
This is particularly relevant because the frontrunner in Sunday’s opposition primary, María Corina Machado is currently banned from holding public office, and Tuesday’s agreements did not spell out a lifting of the prohibition.
U.S. vetos Brazilian resolution on Israel, Gaza
The United States vetoed a Brazil-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution that would have called for pauses in the Israel-Gaza conflict to allow humanitarian aid access to the Gaza Strip. It also called on all parties to comply with international law and protect civilian lives in Hamas-controlled Gaza. (CNN)
Brazil, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council this month, had proposed the resolution, which called for humanitarian access and protection of civilians in Gaza, the immediate release of Israeli hostages and condemned Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israel. The resolution had the support of the majority of the Council members and had been expected to be adopted, according to the New York Times.
The vote was twice delayed in the last couple of days as the United States tries to broker aid access to Gaza, reports Reuters. Twelve members voted in favor of the draft text, yesterday, while Russia and Britain abstained.
Prior to the vote, two amendments proposed by Russia, calling for an immediate, durable and full ceasefire, and to stop attacks against civilians were rejected by the Security Council, reports the United Nations.
"We are on the ground doing the hard work of diplomacy," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the 15-member council after the vote. "We believe we need to let that diplomacy play out."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to allow for the release of hostages and humanitarian aid access to Gaza.
Brazil’s U.N. Ambassador Sérgio França Danese called the defeated resolution “robust and balanced,” stressing that it also called for the immediate release of all hostages, protection of civilians in Gaza from forced relocation, and “the ethical necessity” to provide them with food, fuel, water and medicine. (Associated Press)
More Regional Relations
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s reaction to the Hamas attacks and Israel’s response “was permeated by the spirit of constructive dialogue and the longstanding Brazilian position supporting a two-state solution. The circumstances and Brazil’s current role on the global stage represent a new test for his desire to have a decisive voice on complicated international matters,” writes Rafael Kruchin in Americas Quarterly.
A wave of wave of U.S. Republicans are arguing that the Hamas attacks in Israel are relevant to the U.S.-Mexico border, reports the New York Times.
Taiwan relies heavily on the Caribbean in its longstanding battle for diplomatic survival, reports Americas Quarterly: A total of 13 countries recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state, seven of which are in the Western Hemisphere and five of which are in the Caribbean.
A Brazil congressional probe into the Jan. 8 insurrection recommended that former President Jair Bolsonaro and some of his closest allies be charged with an attempted coup d'état and other crimes, reports Reuters.
“Polluted, violent and ablaze: the real Brazilian rainforest” in a photo essay by Tommaso Protti in the Guardian that reveals “a darker side of deforestation, disease and crime.”
“Armed gangs that have turned Haiti into a cauldron of violence have become so interwoven in Haitian society that they run unofficial money exchange bureaus, control medical facilities and manage social foundations to channel humanitarian assistance, recruit children and even fund electoral campaigns, a new United Nations study says.” (Miami Herald)
“A recently released list of Venezuela’s most wanted criminals has brought attention to some of the country’s most important organized crime figures, but also underlines the government’s refusal to acknowledge some of its most significant security threats,” according to InSight Crime.