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US Revokes Venezuela Gold License In Retaliation Against Court Ruling

Above photo: Bars of gold. Misión Verdad.

The United States revoked a general license granted to the Venezuelan state gold company, Minerven, after Venezuela’s Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) confirmed the disqualification of María Corina Machado from exercising public functions for a period of 15 years. The license (number 43) was issued in October 2023 along with others granted to the oil and gas industries within the framework of negotiations conducted in Barbados between the government of President Nicolás Maduro and sectors of the Venezuelan far-right opposition.

The operations authorized in the license to Minerven must be liquidated before February 13, states the document from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury.

Likewise, in an official statement, the US State Department assured that general license 44 for the oil and gas industry will not be renewed when it expires on April 18, 2024. The unilateral and illegal economic coercive measures—euphemistically referred to as “sanctions”—on these industries were imposed in 2019 during the “maximum pressure” campaign of Donald Trump’s administration.

Bloomberg reported that anonymous US sources stated that Joe Biden’s government is also considering additional measures against Venezuela. US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that “will require Maduro and his representatives upholding the [Barbados agreement] roadmap’s principles and ensuring that opposition political actors have the right to select their candidates for the 2024 presidential election freely,” although the Barbados Agreement never stipulated that any Venezuelans—for example, Machado—should be pardoned for their crimes.

According to the director of Petroguía, Andrés Rojas Jiménez, the most important licenses have to do with oil and gas activity. Interviewed on Unión Radio, he said that the Minerven license “allowed the formalization and gradual organization of operations associated with the gold sector,” which, in his opinion, was permeated by irregularities.

José Ignacio Hernández, an official during the defunct fake government of Juan Guaidó, agreed with this, pointing out that this revocation of the gold license will have only a small impact but could constitute a gateway to the review of other licenses. “It’s more of a question of image,” he noted.

For his part, President Nicolás Maduro declared that the TSJ made its decision based on respect for the Constitution and Venezuelan laws, which is why the cases not admitted—that of Henrique Capriles Radonsky and María Corina Machado, linked to serious crimes against the nation—cannot be viewed as conditional on the progress of and compliance with the Barbados Agreements. “Here, no surname is above the laws,” said the president during his Con Maduro+ program. “This [the decision of the court] is already res judicata and a definitively final decision.”

Economist Asdrúbal Oliveros, citing an analysis by the consulting firm Eurasia Group, which writes about geotechnology, energy, and emerging markets, commented that Biden’s position aims to maintain the flexibility of sanctions and continue negotiating due in part to immigration concerns in an election year.

He also pointed out that María Corina Machado’s insistence on imposing herself as the sole candidate for the opposition will complicate the consensus within the opposition around a presidential candidate and an alternative strategy that the United States can support: “This points to a reestablishment, at least partial, of the sanctions in the coming months, along with a significant possibility that the opposition will split over electoral strategy.

No blackmail, no manipulations

Following the TSJ ruling on the disqualifications, the next step is the formation of a verification commission stipulated in the Barbados Agreements and discussion regarding a proposed electoral schedule that can be presented to the electoral institution of Venezuela in order for the date of the elections to be set, which, according to the chief negotiator, Jorge Rodríguez, “rain, shine, or lightning,” will be this year, 2024.

The Barbados Agreements also included provisions granting respect for the Venezuelan state and its institutions. The US attempt to bypass the Venezuelan Constitution, and legal process, which has disqualified Machado from holding public office due to crimes she committed in the past, represents a violation of the constitutional and contempt for a decision of the highest court in the country.

The blackmail that Joe Biden’s government intends to impose on the Venezuelan State by making the gold licenses granted in October 2023 conditional on the authorization of certain politicians to hold public office is evident. Similarly, the shared interests between these actors who count on circumventing Venezuelan institutions is evident.

The truth is that 2024 has opened with a high-voltage political scenario where the Venezuelan State continues to demand respect for its institutions and states that it will not accept any blackmail that seeks to ignore the national Constitution.

Vice President Delcy Rodríguez stated, in a diplomatic game of chess, that if the US threats materialize, Venezuela would review any cooperation mechanism, especially on immigration issues, that it maintains with the United States.

In this way, these two months remaining in the “deadline” issued by the White House will be decisive for the opposition sector that supports Machado, which will debate, on the one hand, whether it will continue to participate in a negotiation process regarding carrying out elections that will continue regardless of their internal contradictions, or, on the other hand, whether it will return to the “abstention” tactic sponsored by those who continue to count on the extortion of economic sanctions.

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