The European Union has decided to extend the sanctions on Venezuela that it has maintained since 2017. However, in a gesture of recognition of the timid steps – still very uncertain – taken by the government of Nicolás Maduro and the opposition towards holding presidential elections next year, the review of the measure will be made in six months and not in a year, as usual. In addition, the Twenty-Seven declare themselves willing to "reassess the scope" of the measures and even "reverse them at any time" if a "concrete, sustainable and verifiable" progress in the political situation in the South American country is confirmed.
The Barbados political agreement in October "represents a positive and necessary step in the continuation of the process of inclusive dialogue and towards the restoration of democracy in Venezuela," the Council of the EU said in a statement regarding the pact that emerged from a dialogue table between the government and the opposition to hold presidential elections in the second half of 2024 with observation by the EU and other international actors.
Taking into account this "context", it has been decided, on an "exceptional" basis, to shorten the duration of the renewal of sanctions "from 12 to six months", adds the official European note, issued within the framework of the discussions of the foreign ministers who meet this Monday and Tuesday in Brussels.
At the previous meeting of European foreign ministers, at the end of October in Luxembourg, the head of Spanish diplomacy, José Manuel Albares, had gone so far as to suggest that the lifting of sanctions should be studied now in view of the "positive evolution" of the dialogue in Venezuela and Washington's decision to partially and temporarily suspend its oil punishments. Venezuelan gas and gold.
Just before the Luxembourg meeting, María Corina Machado's victory in the opposition primaries in Venezuela had been known, which should make her Nicolás Maduro's rival in the 2024 elections. A victory that the Venezuelan Supreme Court invalidated just a few days later, after Maduro's government began to talk about fraud and mobilized the Prosecutor's Office against Machado, politically disqualified by Chavismo for 15 years.
After learning of the Venezuelan court decision, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Maduro that he has no "carte blanche" to violate the agreement with the opposition and that doing so could mean the complete return of sanctions. "If the regime has in fact violated the agreement reached, then we will take the necessary measures (...); they will not have carte blanche to carry out actions in contradiction with the commitments made to move towards free and fair elections," the head of US diplomacy said, according to Agence France Presse.
Without mentioning the latest lurches in Caracas, the EU limits itself to signaling its willingness to "take steps" and even consider "alleviating or reversing" the sanctions. Of course, he warns, always "depending on the evolution of the situation and the implementation" of the political agreement with the opposition. And also, he adds, of the "progress made towards the unconditional release of all those unjustly detained, freedom of expression, including members of the press, the independence of the electoral process and judicial institutions", key elements that should allow the holding of "credible, inclusive and transparent democratic elections", in addition to guaranteeing "respect for human and political rights", Adds.
European sanctions are regularly reviewed and, in the case of Venezuela, the decision on whether or not to extend them had to be made before this Tuesday, the date on which the last extension, approved on December 2 last year, expired. The EU has applied sanctions on Venezuela since 2017, when it approved an embargo on arms and equipment that could be used for internal repression. In addition, it drew up a list of individuals on whom travel bans and asset freezes are imposed, which has been expanded in recent years, to more than fifty sanctioned.
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