CARACAS/WASHINGTON/HOUSTON (Reuters) – The Venezuelan government may allow appeals from opposition politicians seeking to remove bans barring them from public posts to progress in court, as a way to partially comply with U.S. demands ahead of a deadline tied to loosened sanctions, sources told Reuters. The United States in October announced a six-month roll back […]
Venezuela may allow opposition appeals to advance as US deadline approaches
CARACAS/WASHINGTON/HOUSTON (Reuters) – The Venezuelan government may allow appeals from opposition politicians seeking to remove bans barring them from public posts to progress in court, as a way to partially comply with U.S. demands ahead of a deadline tied to loosened sanctions, sources told Reuters.
The United States in October announced a six-month roll back on some oil industry sanctions and lifted a bond trading ban in exchange for a deal on 2024 elections between the government of President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition.
Washington has said it will reverse the sanctions relief if Maduro has not taken steps by Nov. 30 to release political prisoners and “wrongfully detained” Americans and progress toward lifting the public office bans.
The winner of the opposition’s presidential primary, Maria Corina Machado, is among those barred from office.
It was unclear how strongly or when the U.S. could react if the Venezuelan government takes no action or what minimum Maduro could meet to avert or delay a U.S. response.
There are ongoing deliberations within the Biden administration – which has come under pressure from Republicans to reinstate sanctions- and a decision will depend on what, if anything, Maduro does by Thursday, a Washington source said.
Other sources were skeptical of much of an immediate response from the U.S. and anticipated a reaction could come weeks later.
Two opposition sources and another with knowledge of the matter said Maduro’s government could allow progress on the appeals at the Supreme Justice Tribunal.
And the U.S. itself expects some sort of announcement on the legal process for the bans, a Washington source said, though the person added any movement on the issue would not necessarily come this week.
The government is aware of discontent among people in the OPEC-member country – who are suffering renewed economic pressures after a brief respite thanks to dollarization – and needs the money from increased oil sales, that source added.
Analysts have previously told Reuters increased oil income could allow the government to raise social spending and try to woo voters for the 2024 election.
UNCERTAINTY ABOUT PRISONERS
The government released five prisoners in October but there have been no releases since.
There remains uncertainty about which or how many political prisoners could eventually be released, the opposition sources said.
The U.S. is focused on the release of the three Americans it classes as ‘wrongfully detained’, as well as a fourth American whose exact whereabouts are unknown, a second source in Washington with knowledge of the matter said, adding they could be released in December or early January.
The State Department said in a statement it would not comment on private diplomatic discussions.
“Failure to abide by the terms of the arrangement will lead the United States to reverse steps taken,” the statement added.
The U.S. is serious about reinstating sanctions if Maduro fails to meet his commitments by the end of this month and has no intention of backing down from its repeated threats to reverse sanctions-easing measures, according to another person in Washington familiar with the matter.
That source said it was not yet clear how fast the U.S. might act and how far it could go, but two sources said it may reinstate sanctions on state gold company Minerven.
U.S. and Venezuelan officials have maintained contacts since their representatives last met in Qatar, two of the Washington sources said, but declined to say if any progress had been made.
(Reporting by Mayela Armas and Vivian Sequera in Caracas, Marianna Parraga in Houston and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Alistair Bell)