The Biden administration has issued a stern warning to Venezuela, stating its intent to rescind recently granted licenses if President Nicolás Maduro fails to demonstrate a commitment to fairer elections by the close of November.
Brian Nichols, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, declared that all options are under consideration, including the annulment of licenses allowing the export of Venezuelan oil and gas.
“If they do not fulfill the agreed-upon steps, we will revoke the licenses we have issued,” Nichols stated during an interview at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in San Francisco with Bloomberg.
The key steps outlined in the agreement include establishing a process enabling all opposition candidates to participate in the 2024 presidential election. Notably, María Corina Machado, the victor of Venezuela’s October 22 primaries, remains barred from candidacy by Maduro’s administration. Machado is an overwhelming favorite among opposition candidates, but her quest for the presidency has been challenging, with Venezuela’s controller general, Elvis Amoroso banning her from public office in June due to her support for U.S. sanctions against Maduro’s regime, Reuters reported. Despite the ban, Machado continued her campaign and won the opposition primaries in October. However, Venezuela’s top court suspended the primary results and ratified bans on her and other opposition candidates, after Venezuela’s attorney general Tarek William Saab said his office was investigating the primary and members of its organizing commission for electoral violations, financial crimes and conspiracy.
While Maduro battles to retain his presential seat, he has also been stirring up aggression against Guyana in the border controversy. Venezuela has planned a referendum for December 3 that essentially seeks public support to annex Guyana’s Essequibo region – two-thirds of the country’s territory that Venezuela covets.
Machado has criticized the referendum proposed by the government. She believes the referendum is non-binding, and would weaken Venezuela’s position under international law.