Biden Is Unlikely to Reimpose Oil Sanctions on Venezuela

By Kejal Vyas, Patricia Garip and Juan Forero

"I said at the time, you lift the sanctions now, you take away your own leverage," says AS/COA's Eric Farnsworth to The Wall Street Journal.

The Biden administration is leaning away from reimposing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry despite President Nicolás Maduro’s moves to bar leading opposition candidates from the country’s July elections, said people familiar with the matter.

U.S. officials are concerned that reverting to Trump-era sanctions that accelerated the decline of Venezuela’s oil production would raise the price of gas at U.S. pumps and prompt more migration from Venezuela as President Biden campaigns for re-election in November. Restricting Western oil companies would tighten global energy supplies and open the way for Chinese investment in Venezuela, they say.

Biden administration officials have said they didn’t think that the oil sanctions—leveled against Venezuela in early 2019 in former President Donald Trump’s effort to force Maduro from power—was constructive.

Top officials including national security adviser Jake Sullivan; Amos Hochstein, senior White House energy adviser; and Deputy national security adviser Jon Finer are encouraging a different approach that emphasizes broader strategic interests such as energy supply over political change in Caracas. [...]

“I said at the time, you lift the sanctions now, you take away your own leverage,” said Eric Farnsworth, a former high-ranking State Department diplomat who is vice president of the Council of the Americas policy group in Washington. “That is exactly what happened.”

The Biden administration is likely to extend the current policy until July 28, when Venezuela will hold elections, people familiar with the administration’s thinking say, allowing oil companies and traders to engage with national oil company Petróleos de Venezuela for now. U.S. oil executives are negotiating deals in Caracas in the hopes of a more enduring commercial opening...

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