Venezuela: oil sanctions eased, Chevron pleased

Negotiations barely got started in Mexico between representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his political opposition last month before the United States announced the loosening of oil sanctions imposed on the regime. The move, allowing Chevron to begin pumping oil again, comes amid global energy shortages following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Profits are to go to Venezuela's creditors in the US, not the state oil firm, PDVSA.

No imminent rapprochement is expected between Maduro and the opposition, but the talks have yielded a "social protection agreement" that should unfreeze billions of dollars in state funds from the international financial system. The money is to be gradually released from a UN-managed fund for healthcare and the power grid, though few specifics have been provided. According to the UN's latest humanitarian response plan, 9.3 million Venezuelans are expected to be in need in the coming year. Poverty and hunger are widespread, while 7.1 million have fled the country since 2015 to try their luck abroad. 

From The New Humanitarian, Dec. 2

Note: Chevron is also to take operational control of the Petropiar refinery near Barcelona in northeast Venezuela.

See our last posts on Venezuela's political crisis, the sanctions, and the global food and energy crisis sparked by the Ukraine war. It should be noted that Venezuela's food crisis well predates the Ukraine war.

Venezuela opposition dissolves 'government' of interim president

Venezuela's opposition National Assembly on Dec. 29 voted 72 to 29 to dissolve the declared interim government, and remove its leader Juan Guaidó. They also voted to constitute a commission to oversee the foreign assets of the Venezuelan government. President Nicolas Maduro controls the nation's judiciary and armed forces, while the legislature claims control over foreign assets. Three opposition parties supported the bill–Justice First, Democratic Action and A New Era. Guaidó's party, Popular Will, opposed it. (Jurist)

Green shoots for Venezuelans?

After years of economic collapse and humanitarian crisis that have seen more than 7.7 million Venezuelans—one in four—leave the country, some flickers of hope at last. President Nicolás Maduro's government and the opposition signed a deal Oct. 17 paving the way for elections to take place next year—the first that might be recognized by both sides since before the death of president Hugo Chávez more than a decade ago. The agreement prompted the United States to ease Venezuela's oil sanctions, which should take some economic pressure off a country where 19 million people (out of a population of 28.7 million) now have humanitarian needs, according to the UN.

Only 30.8% of Venezuela’s UN humanitarian response plan for 2023 has been funded so far, but a massive new UN-administered aid fund is said to be in th works. The fund—which Maduro's government and the opposition had agreed to in principle last November—will allow Venezuelan assets frozen by sanctions overseas to be released to finance programmes in health, education, food security, and electricity. About $600 million is expected to be progressively unfrozen, which could go a long way to helping to tackle chronic food shortages and rebuild the shattered healthcare system. (TNH)

Venezuela: government, opposition at odds over candidate

The opposition has overwhelmingly chosen María Corina Machado as its candidate in Venezuela's first presidential primaries since 2012. But the attorney general has launched a criminal investigation into Machado, alleging electoral fraud, and it remains unclear if she will be allowed to run for office. On Oct. 17, President Nicolás Maduro signed an agreement with the opposition in Barbados to hold free and fair elections next year in exchange for an easing of US sanctions. (TNH)

Venezuela suspends results of opposition primary

Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice suspended the results of the country's opposition primary elections and disqualified three candidates from running for office. The Oct. 30 decision cites "unconstitutional and illegal acts of the National Primary Commission." The Oct. 22 primaries elected Maria Corina Machado with over 93% of the vote. The complainant, José Dionisio Brito Rodríguez ("Brito"), is a lawmaker who is sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control for trying to "illegitimately seize control of the National Assembly" on behalf of President Nicolas Maduro. (Jurist)

Venezuelan rights activist held in alleged plot to assassinate

Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek Saab confirmed on Feb. 11 the arrest and detention of Rocío San Miguel, a prominent human rights activist and leader of the NGO Control Ciudadano, for alleged involvement with a conspiracy to assassinate President Nicolás Maduro. This arrest follows the detention of 36 Venezuelan government critics just weeks ago, who were also accused of having ties to alleged plots against Maduro. The arrests have raised concerns among human rights organizations about the shrinking space for dissent and the erosion of civil liberties in Venezuela.  (Jurist)

Venezuela suspends UN human rights office

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yván Gil announced Feb. 15 that the Venezuelan government has decided to suspend the activities of the Technical Assistance Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Venezuela, alleging a deviation from its mandate. Additionally, Gil stated that the personnel affiliated with this office must leave Venezuelan territory within 72 hours. (Venezuela)

Venezuela opposition leader claims campaign manager kidnapped

Venezuelan opposition leader María Corina Machado claimed March 10 that the regime of President Nicolás Maduro has "kidnapped" her campaign manager Emill Brandt in the sate of Barinas, and that another of her campaign managers has been "kidnapped" and is currently being held in El Helicoide, calling the prison “the largest torture center in Latin America.” (Jurist)

Venezuela detains opposition campaign members

Venezuela Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced the detention of two members of the Opposition Campaign Command, vehicle of presidential candidate María Corina Machado, on accusations that the two are linked to a plan to destabilize the government. The move came on March 20, eve of the registration deadline for presidential candidates. With these detentions, the Maduro government has arrested at least six opposition leaders in the course of the race leading up to the next July 28 election. (Jurist)

US reimposes oil sanctions on Venezuela

The United States is to reimpose sanctions on Venezuela’s oil and gas sector in response to the Maduro government's failure to allow "an inclusive and competitive election" to take place.

Last October, citing commitments made by President Nicolas Maduro in 2024, the US Treasury Department issued a temporary authorization to allow transactions with the country's national oil and gas sector without fear of sanctions.

That authorization, formally known as General License 44, was due to expire on April 18 and the administration had to decide whether the Venezuelan government was upholding those commitments, which were made under the Barbados Agreement between representatives of Maduro and members of the political opposition in Venezuela.

According to a senior White House official, the US "completed a very careful review" and determined that the Maduro government "has fallen short" in several key areas of the agreement. (CNN)

Opposition candidate skyrockets ahead of Maduro in polls

A recent poll shows that the opposition's main candidate, Edmundo González Urrutia, has a 40-point lead over president Nicolás Maduro ahead of elections scheduled for July. Roughly 62% of those surveyed said they preferred González, versus 20% for Maduro. (TNH)