February 21, 2024

Washington’s Ability to Pressure Maduro is Limited

The past few weeks have challenged the progress achieved in U.S.-Venezuela relations since last fall. Recent tit-for-tat measures taken by both Washington and Caracas signal a weakening of prospects for Venezuela’s return to democracy.

The Barbados agreement, which was signed last October between the government of Nicolás Maduro and opposition negotiators, was hailed as a breakthrough after years of stalemate. It called on the Maduro government to improve the country’s electoral conditions by allowing for the opposition primary to proceed and by creating a judicial review process regarding the disqualifications of several opposition candidates, including María Machado, who is leading in the polls. For these concessions by the Maduro government, the U.S. granted Venezuela temporary relief from select economic sanctions.

The U.S. approach needs to be accompanied by support for a robust and far-reaching effort at negotiation and reconciliation by Venezuelans themselves

While the content of the Barbados agreement was sketched out between the Maduro government and opposition negotiators, the actual breakthrough happened not in Barbados, nor in Caracas, but in Doha last fall, as a result of a series of meetings between Biden administration officials and Maduro representatives, facilitated by the government of Qatar.

Last month, however, Venezuela’s top court confirmed the electoral disqualification of Machado, violating the spirit of the agreement. The U.S. answered by restoring sanctions on Venezuela’s gold sector and by threatening to revoke relief from sanctions on the country’s oil industry.

Read the full article from Foreign Policy.

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