Venezuela’s government will resume talks with the US-backed opposition, clearing a path for the Biden administration to ease some sanctions on the South American country, including on its oil industry.
(Bloomberg) — Venezuela’s government will resume talks with the US-backed opposition, clearing a path for the Biden administration to ease some sanctions on the South American country, including on its oil industry.
The deal, which includes allowing banned opposition candidates to run in the 2024 presidential vote, would mark the first major political concession by the government of Nicolás Maduro in a decade, as the US seeks improvement of electoral conditions in exchange for much-needed sanctions relief.
Venezuelan officials are signing the deal in Barbados on Tuesday, according to officials from Norway, which is facilitating the talks. People familiar with the plans said Biden administration officials will attend.
“We’re on the verge of starting a good round of signing documents for electoral guarantees,” Maduro said on his TV show Monday evening. He didn’t disclose details of this or the wider deal he said he had already signed with the US, but he did say he would “never endorse any irregularity.”
The sanctions relief will ease some restrictions on Venezuela’s oil industry, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity. That could lead to an increase in exports.
Those changes are expected to be announced after Maduro’s government and the opposition sign the agreement, according to one of the people.
Oil edged lower on Monday following a rally last week on reports that the Biden administration is agreeing to ease Venezuela sanctions and with the US ramping up diplomatic efforts to contain the Israel-Hamas war from widening into a regional crisis. West Texas Intermediate futures fell below $87 a barrel earlier after surging almost $5 last week.
Read more: Oil Slips as US Diplomacy in Middle East, Venezuela Calms Market
The resumption of talks will allow officials to work through details of a wider agreement between Caracas and Washington in the coming weeks, the people said. The Venezuelan parties will then be in charge of implementing the agreement.
If Maduro’s government allows frontrunner María Corina Machado to participate in the election, it would represent the biggest challenge to his rule since 2013. Machado is the clear favorite in a primary vote scheduled for Oct. 22, according to a recent survey by Delphos, a Caracas-based firm, which would make her the opposition candidate for the presidential elections.
The agreement will focus on the timing and scope of the upcoming elections and impose monitoring to ensure it is upheld, according to people familiar with the terms. Previously disqualified candidates seeking to run must ask Venezuela’s Supreme Court to lift any restrictions on them, the people said. The 2024 presidential vote would take place in the second half of that year, the people said, and include the presence of international observers.
Earlier: US, Venezuela Near Deal on Sanctions Relief for Fair Elections
The participants plan to hold a press conference Tuesday in Barbados after the agreement is signed, according to the people.
The latest agreement unfreezes negotiations between representatives of the Maduro government and their foes, which had been in hold after the government accused the opposition of not complying with a humanitarian agreement signed in November.
Officials from the United States and Venezuela in late June engaged in direct, bilateral talks, and have met on at least four occasions in various countries, with the most recent meeting taking place in Qatar.
Earlier: US Set to Resume Direct Deportations Back to Venezuela
Developments in recent days have shown a thaw among the parties, including the decision by the Biden administration to resume flights sending migrants who entered the US illegally back to Venezuela, and Maduro allowing a recently appointed Venezuelan electoral body to register new voters ahead of the coming primary election.
Maduro has sought for years to end US sanctions on his country’s economy with his government in desperate need of cash.
–With assistance from Eric Martin.
(Updates with Maduro’s comments in fourth paragraph)
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