In October, the US Department of State (State) announced it would lift some sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector under the Barbados Electoral Roadmap. The agreement was based on a deal between Maduro’s government and opposition parties for the upcoming elections later this year. The deal between the US and Venezuela resulted in a prisoner swap in December.

Now, after the most extensive rollback of Trump-era sanctions, the US announced it would reimpose those sanctions after a decision by Venezuela’s Supreme Justice Tribunal. The high court decided to keep a ban on opposition candidate Maria Corina Machado in place. The court upheld prior decisions that showed she supported sanctions and a US-backed opposition interim government. Venezuela blames the US for the ongoing economic crisis and the loss of foreign assets after the US government attempted to install Juan Guaido under Trump.

“Actions by Nicolas Maduro and his representatives in Venezuela, including the arrest of members of the democratic opposition and the barring of candidates from competing in this year’s presidential election, are inconsistent with the agreements signed in Barbados last October by representatives of Nicolas Maduro and the Unitary Platform,” reads a statement from State Jan. 30.

Under the conditions for sanctions relief in the Barbados agreement, Maduro’s government was required to free political prisoners, release US citizens that the US claims are wrongfully detained, and move toward lifting bans from holding office for opposition members. But as political tensions in Venezuela escalated between the opposition party and the Maduro government, three Machado allies were arrested on accusations of conspiracy hours before the court’s decision. 

In support of the Barbados Agreement, the United States issued General License 44, which provides relief to Venezuela’s oil and gas sector,” the statement continued. “Absent progress between Maduro and his representatives and the opposition Unitary Platform, particularly on allowing all presidential candidates to compete in this year’s election, the United States will not renew the license when it expires on April 18, 2024.”

“Additionally, the United States is revoking General License 43, which authorized transactions involving Minerven – the Venezuelan state-owned gold mining company. U.S. persons will have fourteen days to wind down any transactions that were previously authorized by that license.”

Venezuela has participated in meeting the conditions for sanctions relief from the US. In the December prisoner swap, Venezuela released 24 of its citizens and 10 Americans. Six prisoners were whom the US identified as “wrongfully detained”. Maduro also released fugitive Leonard Glenn Francis, the Malaysian businessman known as “Fat Leonard.” Leonard has been implicated in a U.S. Navy bribery case.

In return, Venezuela secured the release of only one person, Colombian businessman and Maduro ally, Alex Saab.

Sanctions relief is set to expire in mid-April as part of this seeming collective punishment against the Venezuelan people. It’s a decision that will exacerbate economic conditions and likely fuel the wave of migrants departing Venezuela for other countries – leaving the entire region to question whether this is the right move for the hemisphere.


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Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.

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