Lifting sanctions on the dictatorial regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been a failure, and President Joe Biden’s administration needs to reverse the policy, a measure by Sen. Bryan Ávila says.
The memorial (SM 398), filed this month for the upcoming Legislative Session, would urge U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to reinstate economic sanctions on Venezuela.
It would also recommend additional sanctions on companies that do business with the country while it remains under Maduro’s control.
“The regime has destroyed countless lives, ruined a once-thriving economy, and ruthlessly censored any opposition to Maduro’s tyranny,” Ávila told Florida Politics. “The easing of sanctions by the Biden administration will only allow the regime to tighten its brutal grip on power and continue to terrorize the people of Venezuela.”
Venezuela has been under socialist control and faced U.S. sanctions for decades. That includes ones imposed in 2008 after then-President Hugo Chávez began seizing oil assets of companies including ExxonMobil.
The U.S. tightened trade restrictions with the South American nation further under former President Donald Trump, whose administration imposed numerous actions on Maduro’s regime, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, and its gold company, Minerven, among others.
The Biden administration has taken a different tack. In exchange for the Maduro regime’s agreement to allow free elections in 2024, the U.S. has eased sanctions on companies that trade in oil produced in Venezuela or invest in the country’s oil industry.
That “misguided” change in policy will “lessen the impact of longstanding sanctions aimed at promoting freedom and democracy in Venezuela,” Ávila’s measure says, while doing little to “help lower the prices (of oil) that have remained stubbornly high amid turmoil in Europe and the Middle East.”
Ávila’s memorial points to Oct. 18, when the U.S. lifted sanctions on the export of crude oil and refined petroleum for six months and issued a general license to Minerven in response to Venezuela’s “electoral roadmap.” That reform plan included allowing oppositional leaders to compete in elections, letting international observers monitor the election and freeing all political prisoners.
But on Oct. 30, the Maduro-aligned Venezuelan Supreme Court suspended the entire Primary Election process of Maduro’s opposition and ordered organizers to turn over documents identifying millions of voters after the election garnered more support than expected.
Many elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar, called for an immediate reimposition of sanctions.
White House Latin America adviser Juan Gonzalez said last week that Maduro’s regime has until Nov. 30 to allow all opponents, including oppositional leader María Corina Machado, to compete in next year’s Presidential Election. If that demand is not met, he said, the sanctions will return.
The Biden administration took “a fairly big step to send the signal of our commitment,” Gonzalez told Colombian TV station NTN24. “But after Nov. 30 if those expectations are not met, we will have to take steps to dismantle sanctions relief.”