US to Reimpose Venezuela Oil Ban Unless Maduro Acts Quickly

Treasury Department License Permitting Oil and Gas Production Expires Thursday
Venezuela oil
A Petroleos de Venezuela SA oil pump jack on Lake Maracaibo in Cabimas, Zulia state, Venezuela. (Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

President Joe Biden’s administration intends to reimpose oil sanctions on Venezuela, ending a six-month reprieve, if Nicolas Maduro’s regime does not take steps in the next two days to honor an agreement to allow a fairer vote in elections scheduled for July.

The U.S. plans to allow a Treasury Department license permitting oil and gas production to expire without renewal on April 18, according to people familiar with the plan, who asked not to be identified without permission to speak publicly, if Venezuela fails to act.

The Biden administration has been trying to buy as much time as possible before finalizing the decision in hopes for an unlikely breakthrough that could change its plan, the people said. If the license expires, U.S. actions would be taken to ease the impact on Americans and the U.S. oil market.

The U.S. granted the license in October after Maduro’s representatives traveled to Barbados to sign an agreement to take steps toward a free and fair election. But since then, Maduro has consistently tested the limits of the deal, barring Maria Corina Machado, who won an October opposition primary, and a proposed substitute from running.

Even as the U.S. prepares to reimpose sanctions, some close followers of Venezuela have held out hope for a last-minute resolution that could help avert that outcome. Possibilities mentioned in recent days have included the government extending the deadline for registering candidates, or the opposition throwing its support behind Manuel Rosales, a governor who was allowed to register but is distrusted by some for his willingness to negotiate with Maduro.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing above or go here for more info

The Biden administration has worried that revoking the license could worsen the economic crisis in Venezuela, the second-largest source for undocumented migrants encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border last year. Immigration is a key issue for Biden in his general-election rematch against Republican former President Donald Trump.

U.S. Treasury and White House spokespeople as well as Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.