US officials hold Venezuela meetings amid hunt for alternative oil supplies

A high-level U.S. delegation has met with Venezuelan government officials as the world seeks alternative suppliers to replace Russian oil if Sanctions on Moscow Tighten up after his invasion of Ukraine.

Juan Gonzalez, a senior White House official in Latin America, was in Caracas on Saturday for meetings with President Nicholas Maduro’s government, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Two other sources confirmed that a senior U.S. delegation was in Caracas for meetings.

These represent a major policy change, as the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Maduro in 2019 and closed its embassy, ​​accusing him of stealing presidential elections the previous year.

There was no official U.S. approval for the high-level visit, first reported by the New York Times, but Data from the ADS-B Exchange flight tracking site A Gulfstream plane showed off leaving an airport in Washington and flew to Caracas via Miami on Saturday. There are currently no commercial flights from the US to Venezuela.

Maduro was a close ally of Russia and Moscow’s deputy foreign minister, Yuri Borisov, visited Caracas just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. But experts have said U.S. officials see an opportunity to ease long-standing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil and coax its fire out of Moscow’s embrace at a time when global oil supply concerns are peaking.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Saturday that the US is in “very active discussions” with European partners to ban the import of Russian oil in a coordinated manner.

“I think it is expected, even expected, that the Biden administration will try to smooth things over with Venezuela and Iran in light of the energy supply crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” said Francisco Rodriguez, a fellow on the Foreign Relations Council. Senior veteran of US oil sanctions on Venezuela.

“There is, in principle, a possible deal that could significantly increase Venezuela’s oil production in the medium term if sanctions are lifted and its generation allows Western oil companies to operate oil fields.”

Washington has imposed severe sanctions on Venezuelan oil since 2019 in an effort to force Maduro to retire. In an unprecedented move, the United States recognized opposition leader Juan Guido as the legitimate president of Venezuela instead of Maduro and persuaded some 60 other countries to follow suit.

The sanctions shattered Venezuela’s economy but Maduro tightened his grip on power and survived with the support of Cuba, Russia and China. Guido, meanwhile, has lost height and reluctantly accepted the political negotiations with the Maduro government in Mexico last year. Venezuela then abandoned the talks.

Jeff Ramsey, a Venezuelan expert at the Washington-based Latin America Office, said the American move is not just about oil. “The most interesting development recently is that the Venezuelan opposition has urged the Biden administration to provide them with carrots to bring the regime back to the table in order to revive the negotiations,” he said.

Any move to change U.S. policy on Venezuela and ease oil sanctions is expected to withstand strong opposition from some Republican hawks, especially those close to the exile community in Venezuela.

“Joe Biden uses #Russia As an excuse to make the deal they always wanted to make anyway with #MaduroRegime“Instead of producing more American oil, he wants to replace the oil we buy from one murderous dictator with oil from another murderous dictator.”

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and was previously a major exporter, but its production has collapsed in recent years from nearly 3 million barrels per day to at least one million due to mismanagement and sanctions.

US officials hold Venezuela meetings amid hunt for alternative oil supplies Source link US officials hold Venezuela meetings amid hunt for alternative oil supplies

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