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Former DOS Officials Urge US The Renewal of Venezuela Sanctions, Open Letter to Secretary State Blinken on Venezuela

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives on the island of Crete, Greece, during his weeklong trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East on January 6, 2024. Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/Reuters

Eamonn Brennan, S&P Global Platts

NEW YORK
EnergiesNet.com 04 05 2024

Twenty former United States officials urged the Biden administration to reimpose sanctions on Venezuela if the current regime fails to live up to its democratic promises ahead of a looming expiration deadline.

In a letter dated April 3, a list of former US officials, diplomats and experts in Latin American politics pleaded with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to revoke General License 44, which authorizes oil and gas transactions in Venezuela, unless President Nicolás Maduro allows all opposition candidates to run in the planned 2024 presidential elections, including Maria Corina Machado, whom the regime has already disqualified.

“We believe that capitulating to the regime’s arbitrary ban on the candidacy of the opposition’s singular standard-bearer, Maria Corina Machado, would deal a fatal setback to democratic prospects in Venezuela,” the letter writes. “Therefore, we ask you to state publicly that Maria Corina Machado’s rightful participation in the election is a condition to the United States extending sanctions relief or recognizing the electoral results.”

The license was granted in 2023 after the Barbados Agreements, a pact between Maduro and Venezuelan opposition in which the president pledged to hold free and fair elections this year. The letter arrives two weeks before an April 18 deadline to revoke or extend GL44. The US has repeatedly said it expects Maduro to live up to the Barbados Agreement or face a sanctions snapback.

Maduro moves force US decision

In recent months, however, Maduro has cracked down on political opposition and arrested civil rights advocates, moves that drew steady condemnation and warnings about sanctions from US officials in the White House and State Department.

In March, Maduro disqualified Machado, who overwhelmingly won a unified opposition primary in October 2023, from participating in the 2024 elections. When Machado’s handpicked replacement, Corina Yoris, attempted to register as a candidate in March, the government prevented her from doing so. Both candidates would be likely to beat Maduro in a competitive election, according to pollsters.

The US State Department condemned the Venezuelan National Electoral Council’s move and said it “runs counter to competitive and inclusive elections that the Venezuelan people and international community will view as legitimate.” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration was “deeply concerned.”

Experts have long expected sanctions to return.

Still, according to a March 30 Washington Post report, senior administration officials are mulling alternative penalties they hope would punish the Maduro regime without increasing the number of migrants from the country or raising US gasoline prices. The administration is reportedly wary of Venezuela reverting to receiving more supplies from Iran and selling more of its oil to China. An extension of the current policy until elections are held on July 28 is also possible, analysts have said.

The April 3 letter pushes back against such hedges, arguing that the future of Venezuela’s democracy is at stake.

“If U.S. diplomacy fails to take a clear stand on these issues, we believe Maduro will continue trampling on the Barbados agreement and destroying the prospects for a stable, democratic Venezuela,” the letter writes. “In contrast, by insisting that Maduro respect the will of opposition primary voters and driving up the cost of his failure to do so, the United States will keep faith with millions of Venezuelans who have struggled for decades to restore their country’s institutions and economy by democratic means.”

spglobal.com 04 04 2024

_________________________________

Following is the text of an open letter sent April 3rd to Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed by 20 former senior U.S. Government officials.

FORMER SENIOR U.S. OFFICIALS’ OPEN LETTER TO SECRETARY BLINKEN ON U.S.-VENEZUELA POLICY

April 3, 2024

The Honorable Antony Blinken
United States Secretary of State
The State Department
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Secretary Blinken:

As former United States officials with long experience in U.S. relations with LatinAmerica, we have a deep interest in efforts to find a democratic solution to the
crisis in Venezuela.

Although the Barbados agreement might have represented an opportunity for the democratic opposition to improve conditions for a freer and fairer election this
year, subsequent actions by the Maduro government have left us with little optimism that a credible process and outcome is possible.

We believe the moment calls for more decisive U.S. leadership to preserve any chance that the Venezuelan people may have to seek a democratic future.
First, we respectfully urge you to state unequivocally that unless the Maduro regime permits the opposition to field a presidential candidate of its choosing
without further delay, U.S. authorities will rescind General License 44 authorizing oil and gas transactions in Venezuela and renew robust sanctions against the
officials found to be subverting democracy and engaged in egregious corruption. Second, we believe that capitulating to the regime’s arbitrary ban on the candidacy of the opposition’s singular standard-bearer, Maria Corina Machado, would deal a fatal setback to democratic prospects in Venezuela.

Therefore, we ask you to state publicly that Maria Corina Machado’s rightful participation in the election is a condition to the United States extending sanctions
relief or recognizing the electoral results.

Finally, we are aware that Ms. Machado and her campaign team continue to be the targets of credible threats to their personal safety. Given that campaign of
harassment and the recent murder of a dissident Venezuelan military office in Chile under suspicious circumstances, the U.S. government must warn Maduro that he will be held accountable for continued threats or violence against Ms. Machado and her supporters.

If U.S. diplomacy fails to take a clear stand on these issues, we believe Maduro will continue trampling on the Barbados agreement and destroying the prospects
for a stable, democratic Venezuela.

In contrast, by insisting that Maduro respect the will of opposition primary voters and driving up the cost of his failure to do so, the United States will keep faith with millions of Venezuelans who have struggled for decades to restore their country’s institutions and economy by democratic means.

We hope you will agree that America must act more vigorously for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.

Thank you for your service to our country. We look forward to working together to promote a positive outcome in Venezuela.

Sincerely,

Elliott Abrams
U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela, 2019-2021

James C. Cason
U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay, 2006-2008

Marshall S. Billingslea
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing, 2017-2020

José R. Cárdenas Acting Assistant Administrator for Latin America & the Caribbean, USAID, 2007-2009

Phillip T. Chicola
Director Andean Affairs, U.S. Department of State, 1998-2004

Paula Dobriansky
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs 2001-2009

Patrick Duddy
U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, 2007-2010

Daniel W. Fisk
Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for the Western
Hemisphere, U.S. National Security Council, 2006-2009

Lino Gutiérrez
U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, 2003–2006
U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, 1996–1999

Phillip T. Chicola
Director Andean Affairs, U.S. Department of State, 1998-2004

Dennis Hays
U.S. Ambassador to Suriname,1997-2000

Stephen Johnson
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere
Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense, 2007-2009

Christopher Landau
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, 2019-2021

Stephen G. McFarland
U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, 2008-2011

Michael McKinley
U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, 2017-2018
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, 2015-2016
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, 2010-2013
U.S. Ambassador to Peru, 2007-2010

Luis Moreno
U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica, 2014-2017

Roger F. Noriega
U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, 2001-2002
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, 2003-2005

Otto Reich
U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela,1986-1989
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, 2002
President’s Special Envoy for Western Hemisphere Initiatives, 2003-2004

Peter Romero
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, 2001
U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, 1993–1996

Charles Shapiro
U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, 2002-2004

Michael Skol
U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, 1990-93

Source: Venezuelan American Association

EnergiesNet.com 04 05 2023

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