Brian Nichols, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs from the U.S. State Department, said this week at an Atlantic Council event, that the U.S. “will assess all actions taken [by the Maduro government in Venezuela] and conduct a review of our sanctions policy,” in agreement with the progress made.
Nichols was referring to the recent easing of oil, gold, and some financial transaction sanctions. The U.S. had imposed a November 30th deadline for the Maduro regime to announce a process for the reinstatement of barred opposition candidates including primary winner Maria Corina Machado, and to release political prisoners including illegally detained U.S. citizens.
Venezuela’s government and a faction of the opposition announced on December 1st that they had agreed on a process for banned presidential candidates to appeal to be reinstated. The appeal process opened last Friday and gives candidates until Dec 15 to challenge their ban.
Machado announced at a recent press conference that she will not appeal her ban to the Supreme Court of Justice “at least for now.”
Nichols emphatically reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to lifting economic sanctions, but only if the Maduro regime holds up its end of the deal.
“The United States in coordination with international partners and Venezuelan democratic actors will assess all actions taken and conduct a review of our sanctions policy in light of our statement that is ongoing … We will suspend sanctions relief if we determine that adequate progress has not been made. How far we change our sanctions policies will depend on what steps have been taken. We are continuing to engage in conversations with the Maduro representatives, as well as close consultations with the democratic opposition in Venezuela around finding ways to create the conditions for a more democratic, prosperous, and secure Venezuela,” said Nichols.
Nichols admitted that positive steps have been taken.
“The United States enthusiastically supports the electoral roadmap agreement ... and we believe that this agreement represents a positive step toward addressing humanitarian, economic, and political crises that affect the stability of Venezuelans, their day-to-day well-being, and the security of our regional partners," said Nichols.
Nichols added, “[The electoral roadmap agreement] also represents an alternative to a status quo that did not benefit the Venezuelan people," said Nichols. “The situation simply was not advancing.”
He continued, “Ultimately, this process opens the door for the potential normalization of our relationship with Venezuela; built on trust and mutual respect – If the Maduro side follows through on its commitments.”
This remains to be seen as this week, Venezuela’s government ordered the arrest of three top aides to opposition leader María Corina Machado for their alleged involvement in a plot to sabotage a referendum on the disputed Essequibo region in Guyana.