Joe Biden's decision to lift sanctions on the nephew of Cilia Flores, first lady of Venezuela, and to justify that measure in which the opponents of Chavismo requested it, has caused deep annoyance among the latter, who denounce that under the current president, the The White House has entered a conciliatory path with respect to the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro. Opponents of Chavismo are joined by prominent Democratic and Republican senators, who consider that with this partial lifting of sanctions, they distance themselves from the commitment to democracy and human rights in Venezuela.
Announcing the partial lifting of sanctions Tuesday afternoon, a senior White House official who requested anonymity in a call with reporters said it was "at the request of the interim government and the unitary platform of opposition parties that are negotiating with the Venezuelan regime to support its decision to return to the negotiating table in Mexico City.
Other opposition sources consulted by this newspaper this Wednesday believe that the Biden Administration has tried to use the opposition to make a concession to Maduro, fulfilling two requirements made by the latter after a meeting with a US delegation that was in Caracas in March. These sources emphasize that the objective of the White House is to pressure the regime so that Jorge Rodríguez, a prominent leader of Chavismo and brother of Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, comes to negotiate with the opposition in Mexico. Rodríguez, however, said after the announcement of the lifting of sanctions that the US must release Alex Saab, Maduro's alleged figurehead, before the dialogue resumes.
The partial lifting of sanctions consists of two parts: On the one hand, the US government will allow the US oil company Chevron to negotiate some licenses directly with the Venezuelan regime, and on the other hand, a former director of the state oil company PDVSA and nephew of the Venezuelan first lady, Carlos Erik Malpica Flores, from the official list of US sanctions, in which he was included for corruption.
Especially strikingly, the announcement of the lifting of partial sanctions against Chavismo was made in a call with journalists and without a formal announcement from the State Department or the White House. Furthermore, this decision comes two months after the US presidency resumed direct contact with the regime.
In March, the person in charge of Latin America in the National Security Council of the White House, Juan González, traveled to Caracas; the US ambassador to Venezuela, James Story, and President Biden's special envoy to free hostages, Roger Carstens, who met with Maduro in person. Chavismo later released two Americans that it had imprisoned.
It is true that last week, 18 Democratic legislators asked Biden in a letter to lift the sanctions against Maduro, to mitigate the effects of the sanctions on the population. But they represent the left wing of their party, and the chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, also a Democrat Bob Menéndez, criticized Biden's decision very harshly on Tuesday.
“The Biden Administration must refrain from lifting any additional sanctions until Maduro makes concrete concessions at the negotiating table. Furthermore, the US cannot afford to give the regime any more concessions until Maduro releases the remaining US citizens currently being held hostage in Caracas,” Menendez said.